Review: Total Recall
PLOT: In the future, where a battle-scarred Earth has been divided into two hemispheres; the wealthy Western Euromerica, and the more downtrodden Eastern Colony, Doug Quaid (Colin Farrell) is a humble factory worker, living with his beautiful wife Lori (Kate Beckinsale) in the Colony. He’s plagued by dreams which feature him fighting alongside a beautiful warrior named Melina (Jessica Biel). Upon visiting ReKall, to have a dream vacation implanted, Quaid discovers that he’s actually a secret agent named Hauser, whose memory was erased by the president of Euromerica- Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston). Now- with Lori, herself an agent in Cohaagen’s employ, trying to kill him, Quaid/Hauser must go on the run, and discover the secret his suppressed memories hold before it’s too late.
REVIEW: That plot sound kinda familiar? Well yeah- of course it does, being that this is a remake of the classic Arnold Schwarzenegger/ Paul Verhoven actioner TOTAL RECALL. Despite the fact that Arnie’s flick holds up pretty damn well, the powers that be decided to remake it- hence the brand-new, $200 million plus TOTAL RECALL. Directed by Len Wiseman, who made a name for himself on the first two UNDERWORLD films (not perfect films- but fun), and LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD, this TOTAL RECALL is pretty damn similar to the old TOTAL RECALL, with seemingly only minor adjustments having been made to the premise.
The most significant change is that, in Wiseman’s redux, there’s no more Mars. All of the action takes place on Earth, and if there’s one part of the film that could truly be called successful, it’s Wiseman’s dystopian view of the future. While probably owing more to BLADE RUNNER than Verhoven’s film, the Earth of the future, as presented here is visually striking- with workers shuttling every day between the two hemispheres with a supertube that features a gravity change mid-journey. I really liked the visiual sense Wiseman shows early on, with the poorer Eastern Colony being a surprisingly effective take on a world gone mad.
However, that’s just about the only part of TOTAL RECALL that works, I’m sorry to say. The big problem is that, despite all the eye-candy (and there’s loads), Wiseman’s film has virtually no energy, as opposed to the adrenaline rush of the original film. There’s tons of action, but it’s all very cartoony, or X-Box ish, and worse- there’s absolutely no tension at all. The action scenes aren’t aided by a shockingly generic score by the usually excellent Harry Gregson-Williams, which- suffice to say, doesn’t hold a candle to Jerry Goldsmith’s incredible soundtrack for the original. The much-touted hover car chase is interesting visually, particularly in the cool gravity-change midway through - but it’s all very familiar, being reminiscent of a similar, better chase in Luc Besson’s THE FIFTH ELEMENT.
And therein lies the real problem with TOTAL RECALL- it feels recycled. I know, I know- it’s a remake, but the original TOTAL RECALL is not the only film this steals (or rather “borrows” )from, with everyone involved in this obviously having studied MINORITY REPORT and THE BOURNE IDENTITY before getting this started. Meanwhile, fans of the original will no doubt be irked by the fact that, while everyone involved has gone on record saying they were trying to make this different from Arnie’s film, no opportunity to inject one of the catch-phrases or trademarks from the original is passed up. Even the three-breasted lady turns up, which is really strange as there are no mutants in this film.
It’s too bad that TOTAL RECALL goes this route, as there truly was potential for a solid film here. I’ve always thought Colin Farrell was the real deal, and it’s nice to see him headlining a big movie again, and while he gives it a good try (dude may not be Arnie, but he’s JACKED)- his Quaid is a really bland hero. Say what you will about Ah-nuld’s acting, but he infused his Quaid with a real sense of compassion and heroism that’s missing here. Of course, this TOTAL RECALL happens to feature two of the hottest women in Hollywood, and they’re probably the most successful thing about this film other than the production design. Jessica Biel brings a certain sense of vulnerability to a part that could have come-off as “tough-chick generic”, and she suits these big action heavy blockbusters. As Quaid’s fake wife, Lori, Beckinsale has the time of her life combining Sharon Stone’s old part with Michael Ironside’s henchman. She hasn’t played many baddies, but she’s terrific as the crazed Lori- and, in a nice touch, uses her English accent as the bad Lori, while affecting an American one as the nice Lori.
As for the rest of the cast, Bill Nighy has one quick scene as this movie’s variation on Kuato- Matthias, while Bryan Cranston is off-screen for too much of the film to make a really memorable Cohaagen, although he’s less psychotic, and more simply power-hungry than Ronny Cox was in the original. As such, he underplays the part a bit, which suits Cranston- and its too bad he didn’t get more time to make an impression.
It’s too bad this 2012 take on TOTAL RECALL is so stiff. While I still think the 1990 original holds up well enough that it didn’t need a remake, I went into this with an open-mind, as I like pretty much everyone involved. Despite a good cast, and some top-notch (refreshingly non 3D) visuals, this movie just never comes to life, and left me feeling bored and restless.