The Singing Detective
Release Year: 2003
Director: Keith Gordon
Writers: Dennis Potter (screenplay based on his television series The Singing Detective)
Starring: Robert Downey, Jr., Robin Wright, Mel Gibson, Jeremy Northam, Katie Holmes, Adrien Brody, Jon Polito, Carla Gugino, Saul Rubinek
Tied to a hospital bed due to an aggressive skin disease, bitter and cynical pot boiler writer Dan Dark (Robert Downey, Jr.) hallucinates paranoid scenes from his own book as well as musical interludes on his way toward physical and mental recovery.
Based on a BBC television series by the British writer Dennis Potter (Gorky Park, 1983), this film adaptation of The Singing Detective is an uneven fare with small and interesting glimpses of something great. The story is a love letter to film noir and pulp detective fiction and brilliantly weaves childhood drama into dual strands of the writers own novel and a paranoid fantasy in which fictional and real characters (within the story) blend. Robert Downey, Jr. (Sherlock Holmes, 2009) plays Dan Dark, made-up expertly when lying in his hospital bed and looking dashing in his fantasy as the titular detective. Those who are familiar with Downey’s charismatic singing voice will be disappointed to hear that he doesn’t actually sing in the film, with the exception of over the end credits. Instead, the studio version of well-known songs are used and one cannot help but feel it is a missed opportunity, a feeling that pervades large parts of the film. The film tries to tackle many narrative strands in a relatively short running time, leaving a messy impression afterwards. However, the film tackles the underlying psychosomatic nature of Dark’s disease and it’s root causes quite well, partially through a subversively brilliant turn from Mel Gibson (Mad Max, 1979). An unusual but uneven film that will either enthrall you or leave you unimpressed.
At on point David Cronenberg was in line to direct with Al Pacino set to play Dan Dark.
Picture Copyright: Scanbox