Douglas Quaid (played by Colin Farrell) lives with his wife (Kate Beckinsale) in a crowded futuristic city and finds his existence empty and unfulfilling. He decides to go to Rekall, a company that implants exciting memories that are said to be as real and vivid as real life. Quaid opts for a phony memory of himself as a secret agent, a fanciful idea that immediately goes wrong once he straps himself into the chair…
The only thing worse than a mediocre sci-fi action time waster, which this certainly is, must be an inferior remake of a still-great movie. The original 1990 Total Recall towers over this movie the same way Haleakala stands grandly and easily over a cow pie. Directed by Paul Verhoeven, the fearless Dutch director of Robocop and Starship Troopers, it holds up great, blending wall-to-wall excitement with mind bending questions of true identity, and remains Arnold Schwarzenegger’s best genre vehicle outside of The Terminator.
Verhoeven is an anything-goes filmmaker whose films are saturated with splatters of gore, open sexuality and intelligent, probing explorations of our darkest impulses. By comparison, the remake director Len Wiseman did a fine job helming Live Free or Die Hard, but he’s in over his head here. The result is as soulless and underwhelming as his Underworld.
Reportedly costing $200 million and giving audiences an eyesore vision of the future, nearly every scene comes with unmotivated strobe lighting and lens flares. The look of the film is clunky, junkyard ready and yet brimming with high tech gadgetry. It plays more like a lavish remake of Johnny Mnemonic.
Our future resembles a messy block of forgotten Legos, which gives the filmmakers chances to steal from Blade Runner, The Fifth Element and Minority Report at every possible moment. The result is like those movies stripped for their action and lacking their considerable smarts and wild ideas.
It opens with a long story crawl that winds up adding nothing to the narrative at all, a definite bad sign early on. The political subplot intends to make a nod at current headlines but never comes across and most unforgivably, the is-it-real-or-is-it-Rekall angle, the driving force of the original, is tossed aside. What remains are lots of shoot outs, chases and fight scenes, which become redundant and tiresome near the end, which doesn’t come soon enough.
Farrell’s a great actor and his wily performance in last summer’s lousy Fright Night remake was the best thing about that movie; here, he doesn’t seem entirely engaged by his character or the movie. Beckinsale, the director’s wife, gives a vanity performance that mostly just shows off her toned figure; instead of nailing a potentially delicious dual role (like Sharon Stone did in the first version), Beckinsale struts around like a really peeved soccer mom. Jessica Biel, playing a gun toting freedom fighter, is both absurdly miscast and still unimpressive as an actress.
The Hover Car chase sequence is as good as this gets but I liked it better when it was Bruce Willis driving a flying cab. Except for the many lines that are quoted directly from the original, the dialogue is witless and the story is no longer surprising, shocking or all that interesting.
Losing the Mars angle from the original was another bad idea, as it gave the double-agent angle a purpose. Without that, there’s no reason for any of this to take place, beyond staging another CGI explosion. Nearly a scene for scene copy and bungle of the first movie, this is the most useless remake since Let Me In.
Rated PG 13 / 118 Min.