Where’s Ah-nuld when you need him?
(Columbia Pictures)

Review by The Isolated Moviegoer:

Remake.  Reboot.  Re-imagining.  Whatever you call Len Wiseman’s Total Recall, just don’t call it remarkable.  A boring, unimaginative sci-fi time suck where even the special effects feel at least a decade out of date, the film takes Philip K. Dick’s source material and removes all sense of appeal.  For all its faults, though, it does accomplish two things.  This Total Recall makes The Three Stooges look good and gives Colin Farrell the dubious honor of being outperformed by Arnold Schwarzenegger.

“I wanted to be in those Underworld
films, but nooooo.”
(Columbia Pictures)

Set in post-21st century Earth after chemical warfare has rendered the bulk of the planet uninhabitable, the film centers on Douglas Quaid (Farrell), a factory worker living an unremarkable life.  Each day he commutes from his home in The Colony (formerly Australia) to work in the swankier United Federation of Britain via a hyper fast transportation system known as The Fall.  When the shift is done, he comes home to his medic wife Lori (Kate Beckinsale), drinks beer with his buddy Harry (Bokeem Woodbine), and pines for something more.

Troubled by a recurring dream where he and a mystery woman (Jessica Biel) are assailed by the police, Quaid visits the memory implant company Rekall for a mental boost.  As a secret agent past is being administered, the building is stormed by police, but in attempting to arrest Quaid, he snaps, kills most of them, and escapes.  Returning to his apartment, a rattled Quaid is attacked by Lori, who claims that his real name is Hauser, his entire life is a construct, and that she’s a federal agent protecting him for government honcho Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston).  Unsure who to trust or what to believe, Quaid flees and runs into Melina, the woman from his dreams.  Told that he defected from Cohaagen to work for the rebel leader Matthias (Bill Nighy), Quaid struggles to piece his mind together with Lori and the police in constant pursuit.

In the future, cars are sadly still driven on the inside.
(Columbia Pictures)

Surrounded by techie, futuristic visuals that echo yet fail to keep up with 2002’s Minority Report, Total Recall is full of problems.  Though there’s somewhat inspired casting in the central foils’ decent resemblance (Biel/Beckinsale; Nighy/Cranston), the filmmakers have no intention of exploiting those similarities nor the duplicity they suggest.  Handed a potential mind-bender story, the proceedings are straightforward to a fault.  The cast, given so little with which to work, merely inhabit their roles, pushing the film forward without being memorable or providing a reason to care about their predicaments.  Nighy and Cranston are notably wasted, but just as unfortunate is the lifelessness that Farrell brings to Quaid.  In a bit of a career revival after the likes of In Bruges and Crazy Heart, Farrell suffers a major setback, and though much of the blame lies with the filmmakers, the outcome casts serious doubt on his abilities as a leading man.

On the technical side, for a big budget action film, thrills and sci-fi intrigue are sorely lacking.  Every wannabe “wow” action moment is neutered by a reliance on slo-mo, as are what are intended to be the film’s few emotional highs.  The lighting also provides consistent mystery as it somehow achieves being both overly dark and featuring enough lens flares to irritate Stevie Wonder.  Add in a ho-hum army of Attack of the I, Robot Clones, and even disregarding Paul Verhoeven’s 1990 take on the same material, there’s nothing new or special to see here.

Rev. Camden would be proud.
(Columbia Pictures)

A few casual nods are made to the original Total Recall, but other than employing the same character names, that’s where the similarities end.  Wiseman’s take features far lowered stakes and has zero room for the campiness, shocking (in a fake F/X kind of way) violence, and surprisingly harsh language that made Verhoeven’s film a treat.

Shocks and surprises are the last things in which Wiseman appears interested.  He’s only after a paycheck.  Don’t give him any part of yours.

Grade: D-

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, some sexual content, brief nudity, and language.

Total Recall is playing at the Carolina Cinemas on Hendersonville Rd.

For more film reviews, visit The Isolated Moviegoer.


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