Review by: Jack Foley | Rating:
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Cast and crew interviews; Theatrical
TRANSFORMING Dennis Potters hugely popular seven-hour mini-series,
The Singing Detective, into a tight little movie was always going
to be a difficult task, given the complexity of the tale, so it
is little wonder to find that the film version, while certainly
ambitious, fails to achieve the standards set by its illustrious
The big screen interpretation, which is based upon Potters
own re-imagined screenplay, is a somewhat messy affair which never
really manages to connect with its audience, despite the best
efforts of its main star, Robert Downey Jr, and co-star and producer,
Mel Gibson (virtually unrecognisable).
The film centres around unsuccessful detective story novelist,
Dan Dark (Downey Jr), as he lies in a hospital bed, suffering
from a visibly painful, and particularly extreme case of psoriasis,
while trying to come to terms with his inner demons.
Beset by career disappointments, a failing marriage and the memory
of a tortured childhood, Dark must ponder whether his wife (Robin
Wright Penn) is cheating on him with a strange figure from his
childhood (Jeremy Northam) and plotting to steal the script he
wrote and tucked away, and whether the doctors surrounding him
are as mad as they seem, or merely a figment of his tormented
The only two people who seem to care are Katie Holmes sweet
nurse, and the eccentric Dr Gibbon (Gibson), who do what they
can to rescue him from his own sardonic ranting, as well as the
memories of a difficult upbringing, and from slipping into a fantasy
world where two gangsters (Adrien Brody and Jon Polito) pursue
him through noir landscapes.
Director, Keith Gordon, who has a habit of bringing tough adaptations
to the big screen (such as A Midnight Clear), has so much to work
with, that he often seems to lose control of the many components
of the story, making it difficult to keep up, and, worse, remain
His film works best when focusing on the performances, and feels
flabby and overbloated when tackling the more grandiose set pieces,
such as the musical numbers which punctuate events, without ever
Hence, the sessions between Dark and Dr Gibbons rate among the
movies finest, with both Gibson and Downey Jr building well
on the chemistry they shared in Air America, and offering glimpses
of what might have been.
Gordon, though, seems to want to have his cake and eat it, and
peppers proceedings with so many off-shoots and fantasies, attempting
to make the most of his talented cast, that viewers never really
have time to connect emotionally with the core performers.
And while Downey Jr strides charismatically through every scene
he occupies, and effortlessly reminds people of what a great actor
he remains, his performance, alone, is not enough to save the
movie from the unsatisfying failure that it eventually becomes.
Sadly, the best intentions and a lot of ambition simply arent
enough to prevent this Singing Detective from hitting the wrong