There are films that belong on the “do not remake ever, under penalty of eternal mockery” list, but Total Recall? Puh-leeze. It may have been somewhat more stylish than the typical Arnold Schwarzenegger catchphrase delivery system of the late ’80s and early ’90s, but we’re still talking about satisfying Paul Verhoeven trash here, not an inviolable classic.
Director Len Wiseman (Underworld) takes the Philip K. Dick-inspired story in a slightly different, slightly darker direction, removing the Mars setting from the story of a late-21st-century Earth, where chemical warfare has rendered only the former Great Britain and Australia inhabitable, and an underground resistance fights against the authoritarian leader (Bryan Cranston). The narrative still follows Doug Quaid (Colin Farrell), a working stiff who decides to try out a technology that allows you an escape through implanted memories—only to discover that someone might have already tampered with his mind.
Wiseman pumps a generous helping of Blade Runner into the design of his population-dense world, with multilevel freeways and living space stacked like poorly planned Lego structures. It’s far from visually groundbreaking, but it works, providing the foundation for a number of killer action set pieces, including a hover-car pursuit and a thrilling chase through the tunnels housing one building’s multidirection elevator system. Despite cranking up the lens flares to a level that would make even J.J. Abrams put on the brakes, it’s action filmmaking he delivers with uncompromising energy.
It could have improved even more on the subtext involving identity and choice, replacing Schwarzenegger with a performer who can actually pull off this whole “subtext” concept. Those ideas are still only given cursory attention, but it doesn’t matter much thanks to the punchy pacing and a slick performance by Kate Beckinsale in the Sharon Stone role from the original. Nostalgia shouldn’t be enough to deprive us of well-crafted genre movie-making—even if it chooses not to “consider that a divorce.”
Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel