Richard Linklater gives Philip K. Dick’s anti-drug fable the anime treatment in this tale of an undercover narc, whose identity is kept secret from everyone – including his colleagues – leading to his becoming the subject of his own investigation.
Technically, the actors all fulfil their relative niches, from Keanu Reeves’ self-analysing stoner to Woody Harrelson’s wacky attention seeking and the visuals are fine if a little unsophisticated by today’s standards. For me though, it was only for the last half hour, when the story finally kicked into gear that it really grabbed my attention. The first hour of the film is exactly like being in the company of genuine druggies – namely listening to a load of self-absorbed pretentious and paranoid bullshit blanketed in a psychedelic haze; it’s actually so accurate it’s eerie. The problem is that Philip K. Dick was writing an well observed and honest indictment of the seductiveness and destructiveness of drugs, the fact that the film ends with a list his friends who were destroyed by them underlines this. Therefore Linklater’s use of self-consciously “cool” actors and the fashionable animated style is completely at odds with the message that the story was trying to convey.
As a whole it’s a well executed film that unfortunately missed the point of it’s source material.