Total Recall (Sony Pictures)
Starring: Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Bryan Cranston, Jessica Biel, Bill Nighly, Bokeem Woodbine
Directed by: Len Wiseman
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre: Action Adventure/Science Fiction
Critic’s rating: * ½ stars (out of 4 stars)
Len Wiseman’s (“Underworld”) numbing, noisy and nonsensical dazzling ditty Total Recall marches through the monotonous motions as a surly sci-fi actioner but only manages to muster up inconsequential static. The excess of action-oriented sequences, CGI hedonism, exaggerated fight scenes, curvaceous cuties in a hormonal catfight, a robotic nemesis and a swaggering leading man caught in the cosmic craziness arbitrarily comes with the territory. Still, these familiar flourishes that accompany a sci-fi thriller does not necessarily make for automatic formidable filmmaking even in a summertime escapist action flick meant to drown one’s sensory bank.
Of course one realizes that Wiseman’s disjointed Total Recall is the remake of the Arnold Schwartzenegger-starring, Paul Verhoeven-directed original that actually captured the audience’s imagination with its outlandish impishness. With the Arnie S./Paul V. original their sci-fi adventure was armed with a refreshing outrageousness that invited moviegoers to wink at its over-the-top implausibility. Yesteryear’s Total Recall had a biting sense of humor and a blistering techno-twitchiness that was thoroughly infectious.
Wiseman’s modern-day monstrosity strives for eye-popping effects in a stilted big screen video arcade that possesses no distinctive personality or innovative intrigue whatsoever. Lacking solid character development (led by star Colin Farrell’s “deer-in-the-headlights” gazing) or any genuine sense of substantial suspense, 2012’s Total Recall feels like some overactive recycled sci-fi yarn from the 90’s complete with the over-indulgent dependency of millennium-style special effects galore.
In fact, one even wonders why the pointless presentation of Total Recall exists? It only serves as a reminder as to how superior and nostalgically nifty its previous bombastic blueprint was with entertaining sauciness from over two decades ago. Witless and uneventfully wily, Total Recall is lapse in its memory mechanism.
In the futuristic 2084 the world is in complete shambles. The survivors have two separate worlds that make up their existences. In the Colony (Australia), the impoverished people reside there where they mainly consist of blue collar workers relegated to slave-like labor. The other venue, the UFB (United Federation of Britain), is located at the center core of the Earth. The denizens in the Colony are fed up with the usual status quo and are simmering with cynicism. No doubt that a revolt is in order (think in terms of today’s Occupy Movement set against sophisticated gadgets and technological gumption).
Resistance fighter Doug Quaid (Farrell) is one of the Colony dwellers living a so-so life with his wife (Kate Beckinsale). Quaid is constantly inundated with sensational dreams featuring in James Bond-mode as he fancies himself a super-spy being hunted down by robot renegades. Quaid’s partner-in-crime is a curvaceous cohort (Jessica Biel) whose spy ingenuity helps them in tricky situations.
When Quaid wants his dare-devilish dreams enhanced and more excitable he turns to the outfit Rekall, a company that specializes in spicing up fake memories so that it appears realistic to its participant. Quaid is eager to capitalize on his super-spy fantasies that dare to take him away from his drab lifestyle. Quaid, who is actually a spy in real life, definitely wants to up the volume of his adventurous profession.
Quaid gets more than what he bargained for when Rekall is invaded by armed soldiers. This invasion proves to be drastic as Quaid is sent into a tailspin of conflict and chaos. Soon Quaid is caught in the middle of a firestorm regarding the Resistance and its determined leaders in the twisted Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston from TV’s “Breaking Bad”) and the defensive Matthius (Bill Nighly).
Unfortunately, Total Recall comes off as a poor man’s Blade Runner in apocalyptic sheen and attitude. The main message-perhaps the political struggle between the classes of the privileged and pitied-is lost in a hyperactive spectacle that feels empty-minded and trivial. Sure, Total Recall redeems itself with the occasional thrill-ride tactics involving colorful chase scenes, inventive gadgetry and the choreographed shoot-outs. Nevertheless, the standard and clichéd universe of henchmen and the obligatory one-on-one showdown between Farrell’s twitchy hero and Cranston’s villainous cretin that wants to eradicate the Resistance feels like a rudimentary romp following the predictable dots.
As the harried super-spy in the middle of the havoc, Farrell appears more robotic than the metal menaces he is supposed to be combating. Beckinsale (Mrs. Len Wiseman in real life who undertakes the Sharon Stone role from the first Total Recall movie) does not have much to do other than being a punchline for off-kilter wife-induced jokes. Biel looks good in her uniform as she kicks tail but so what? Nighly shows up enough to register his importance but one cannot help but wonder if his Matthias could have been more instrumental in his on-screen rebellion.
In Schwartzenegger’s Total Recall, he uttered his catchphrase “I’ll be back”. After watching Farrell’s tepid trip through this anemic boisterous remake one wishes that Arnold would have kept his word.