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:: The Singing Detective

Dan Dark (Robert Downey Jr.) plays an unsuccessful detective writer with a tortured childhood, bitter career disappointments, an unfaithful wife and a devastating skin disease. Dan believes that his wife (Robin Wright Penn) is cheating on him with a mysterious figure from his childhood (played by Jeremy Northam) and that the pair are planning to steal a script that he wrote and hid away. Dan lies in his hospital bed suffering from psoriasis as well as frequent delusions involving bad song and dance routines courtesy of the medical staff. Dan’s only allies are the young nurse at the hospital (Katie Holmes) and the eccentric Dr. Gibbon (Mel Gibson), who provide some comfort for him as his world oscillates between reality and a noir fantasy- land where he is pursued by gangsters (Adrien Brody and Jon Polito).

The title of this film will be familiar to some from the television series of the same name that screened on the ABC in the late Eighties. A few subtle changes have occurred, the most notable being the shift in time and setting from 1940s Britain to 1950s America. The scenes move from the sterile, white and shiny hospital room Dan occupies, to the hallucinatory dark world of his tortured childhood memories. Dan is a detective exploring his own life, trying to find answers to questions that have plagued him since childhood. He is a nasty acerbic character, his disfiguring skin disease metaphorically representing his inner psyche. The makeup department on this film made several attempts to cover Downey Jr. head to toe in special effects makeup to simulate psoriasis, but ended up designing a special body suit to meet the needs for filming. Mel Gibson also undergoes a cosmetic metamorphosis to play the bald Dr. Gibbon.

This film is really an amusing collection of scenes edited together to no real effect. Each scene has something to hold your interest but this temporary and episodic direction fails to result in a story with any semblance of logic, meaning or enjoyment. The cast are all sufficiently good in their specific scenes, but Downey Jr. is the stand out, acting up a storm beneath his hideous cosmetic exterior. Although he mimes the musical numbers throughout the film, Downey Jr. sings over the closing credits so if nothing else, satisfy you curiosity and stay till the end.