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The Singing Detective 15 rating

Robert Downey Jr. is at his caustic best in this acerbic adaptation of Dennis Potter's classic serial about a writer tormented by dark visions from his own novels.

Comedy 2003 105 mins

Director: Keith Gordon

Overview

A pre-Iron Man Robert Downey Jr. gives a reminder of his caustic flair in more adult-oriented material, in this film adaptation of Dennis Potter's revered BBC serial. Brilliantly cast in the role made famous by Michael Gambon, he plays a hospitalised writer tormented by paranoid delusions, including dark manifestations from his Noir literary creations and hallucinated impromptu song-and-dance numbers. Robin Wright Penn (House of Cards), Katie Holmes and Mel Gibson round out an impressive cast.

Potter's semi-autobiographical series was perhaps an unlikely candidate for a Hollywood makeover, but in the early 2000s its script adaptation became hot property, at various points earning the attention of Robert Altman and David Cronenberg. Eventually Mel Gibson became its champion, enlisting cult director Keith Gordon (Static) to the project. Gordon uses his cinematic freedom to amplify the sex and violence that Potter could only hint at on the BBC. And while the film received mixed reviews upon release, it remains a fascinating attempt to transpose Potter's fractured, digressive narrative into a standalone feature, filled with memorably deranged scenes and bilious brilliance from Downey Jr.