Despite plenty of special effects sparkle, TOTAL RECALL remains an action diversion
Director Len Wiseman turns his remake of the 1990 sci-fi adventure Total Recall up a few notches with a speeding hover car chase and an out-of-this-world subway called The Fall, which literally zips passengers through the core of the Earth complete with an engineering marvel called gravity reversal.
Yet, despite all the special effects sparkle, Total Recall remains a diverting B movie at best and a bit of a disappointment when compared to the original movie.
Colin Farrell steps into the lead role made famous by Arnold Schwarzenegger, playing face-in-the-crowd, factory worker Douglas Quaid who turns out to be more than he seems after visiting a company called Rekall and injecting fake memories into his mind.
Salt Screenwriter Kurt Wimmer and co-writer Mark Bomback adapt an initial draft by Ronald Shusett, Dan O’Bannon and Jon Povill, returning to more of the subplots of the Philip K. Dick short story "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale."
The plot changes from a Martian colony to a future Earth that has been devastated by war except for New Great Britain and The Colony, located in what used to be Australia.
Total Recall has its share of politics with hints of Syria and Palestine as Colony resistance fights tag a wall with the slogan The Fall Enslaves Us All as they fight for better treatment from the leaders of New Great Britain who want their land for expansion.
Production designer Patrick Tatopoulos borrows images from sci-fi classics like Blade Runner, Metropolis and Things To Come as well as The Fifth Element and the robot army from I, Robot.
Wiseman keeps a fast pace from start to finish and he proves himself to be an expert at staging explosive action scenes. Still, Total Recall lacks the zest of his best movie, Live Free or Die Hard, because it lacks a larger-than-life lead like Bruce Willis.
Kate Beckinsale and Jessica Biel are the women in Douglas’ lives and arguably the true headliners of Total Recall.
Beckinsale is Douglas’ wife Lori, and like her husband she also has a secret and deadly past.
Beckinsale delivers plenty of sex appeal to Total Recall as Douglas’ adversary but her role dissolves into an unintentional parody of the Terminator and the Energizer bunny, someone who just keeps going and going.
Biel is Melina, a woman from Douglas’ dreams who appears just when he needs her most and helps provide one of the film’s highlight action scenes, an elevator fight with Beckinsale’s character that takes cat fights to new and bloody heights.
Biel is believably tough as the freedom fighter at Douglas’ side but laughable dialogue squashes her character.
Bill Nighy adds gravitas to the film as Matthias, the leader of the resistance movement trying to protect the people of the Colony from invasion by New Great Britain.
John Cho has fun in the film’s key scene when a Rekall treatment unlocks Douglas’ memories and reveals his true identity.
Bryan Cranston is surprisingly bland as Cohaagen, the leader of New Great Britain and the mastermind behind an invasion plot involving a robot army.
Farrell has bedroom eyes and smoky good looks and plenty of sex appeal but Total Recall misuses him as a straight action hero.
In terms of his genre remakes, Farrell is better as a sexy vampire in last summer’s Fright Night remake. His bad boy spark is missing in Total Recall, a spark the film desperately needs.
There are plenty of action updates to the Total Recall story but they’re not exactly improvements.
Distributor: Columbia Pictures
Cast: Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, Bryan Cranston, Bill Nighy, John Cho
Screenwriter: Kurt Wimmer, Mark Bomback, from a screen story by Ronald Shusett and Dan O’Bannon and Jon Povill and Kurt Wimmer and the short story We Can Remember It for You Wholesale by Philip K. Dick
Director: Len Wiseman
Cinematographer: Paul Cameron
Editor: Christian Wagner
Producers: Original Film, Rekall Productions
Running Time: 118 minutes
Rating: Rated PG-13
Release Date: August 3, 2012