A sci-fi action movie that wears its influences loudly, what Total Recall lacks in originality it makes up in its brooding tech-world action noir spectacle.
Of late the films of Arnold Schwarzenegger have been given the remake/spin-off treatment and it proves a shadow of a doubt that the one-time box office king was also quite the charismatic star.
Total Recall is of course the remake of the 1991 Schwarzenegger classic of the same name (itself an adaptation of the Philip K. Dick short story “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale”) this time with Colin Farrell in the lead, and make no mistake while he is an immensely better actor Farrell is no Schwarzenegger.
Farrell stars as Douglas Quad, a blue collar worker in a bleak, mechanised and polluted future whose dreams of a better life leads him to the virtual reality provider “Total Rekall”. However instead of a mental adventure, Quad finds himself neck deep in a conspiracy involving corrupt government, gun totting revolutionaries and one hell of an identity crisis.
As directed by action genre veteran Len Wiseman (he behind the Underworld franchise), Total Recall is a film that takes itself very, very seriously, yet does not earn the emotional investment needed to make Quad’s plight reach its dramatic quota. When the film asks whether Quad will find his identity and save the day, we have no choice but to shrug our shoulders and say “who cares!”
Where Wiseman does succeed is in creating a techno-noir world that - while heavily borrowed from classics such as Blade Runner and Minority Report (other films based on the works of Philip K. Dick) - does suck you in with its excellent art direction.
The backdrop also doubles as a playground for Wiseman to set his action shenanigans, one particular chase sequence involving our hero hopping to and throw onto elevators that move sideways at superfast speed and upwards at vertigo inducing heights.
Good to is when Wiseman lets loose uber action babes Kate Beckinsale and Jessica Biel who dispense with enough gunfire to make Rambo weep with envy, especially Beckinsale whose villainous role almost upstages Farrell’s brooding, confused hero. (Same can’t be said of the underutilised Bryan Cranston and Bill Nighy who is sorely miscast as a revolutionary leader).
Despite being cast in high profile roles for the last ten years Farrell is still struggling to find that role which will catapult him into bankable superstardom. Total Recall is not that film. Yet if it's an immersive sci-fi experience you're after, this remake puts in quite the good effort.