Review: Total Recall

Posted on August 5, 2012
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under Reviews
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22 years later the reboot arrives.

Don’t ask me why, maybe it was time to show off CGI skills and the imagination of studio hounds, who knows?

In 1990 Total Recall was a film that continued to propel the Arnold Schwarzenegger machine, a film synonymous with his name. Now we see Colin Farrell assume the role Arnold once played, in a modern take on the impending doom of a futuristic dystopia.

Farrell plays Douglas Quaid, a working man on an assembly line in a run down world, he has a crappy apartment and a ridiculously hot wife; Lori, played by Kate Beckinsale. After a stressful day of work, Quaid looks to get away; he heads to a bar and eventually winds up at Rekall.

When asked what memory he’d like to have he of course says “secret agent, I can do that.” See this is playing out much like the original. Quaid is warned, he can’t pick a memory that is true; meaning if he was/is a secret agent the memory won’t take.

Things go haywire; Quaid snaps, kills all the futuristic guards and then has no idea what just happened.

When we wonder why we went to the theater to watch the same film made two decades ago I feel like the answer is simple. New gadgets, new special effects, new faces, and a familiar story.

Kate Beckinsale kicks major ass as Lori, a role made famous by Sharon Stone. Her turning on Quaid, and constant pursuit of him is highly entertaining and makes me want to see Beckinsale play more villainous roles. Enough with the Underworld vampire stuff.

Quaid’s new squeeze, that he doesn’t remember is Jessica Biel, who plays Melina. Her priority is to save Quaid from Lori – then kick Lori’s ass, and make sure Quaid finds Cohaagen. Biel, while being the antithesis to Beckinsale is still fun to see in an action role. The fight scenes between Lori and Melina are well done, much better than the 1990 round 1 of Stone vs. Rachel Ticotin.

Last but not least comes another stellar but short performance from Bryan Cranston as the evil Cohaagen. With a plan set for total takeover, his ruthlessness shines even in the 15 or so minutes of screen time. It’s a gift and a curse, Breaking Bad is so great, and defining for Cranston, but it doesn’t allow us to get major performances from him in feature films.

For those wondering: the reboot just barely beat the original in terms of gross for opening weekend $26 million vs. $25,533,700.

(Yes there is another three breasted woman, and no, Arnold does not make a cameo. I know, I was waiting for it also.)

The film’s first 45 minutes are far to similar to the 1990 version, scenes are recreated with barely any noticeable difference leaving the audience who are aware of the original knowing exactly what’s coming.

After those initial minutes, Total Recall part deux does indeed separate itself into it’s own film, albeit names and characters remaining the same. The world created in this new interpretation is pretty fascinating, and shows just how far we have come with computers and other special effects.

This is a typical action film with more bullets fired than a Rambo flick, and more explosions than a Michael Bay movie, and at times you want more story, and more dialogue.

Total Recall has a grand finale, and even process that leads to it is different that the original; it seems like director Len Wiseman indeed had his own unique vision for the film, but the entire first act brings down the quality of the reboot. It leaves me questioning why even remake the film, when the only major similarities between the two were the set up?

Wiseman surely could have circumvented the thought process that was the idea behind “Rekall” and given this film it’s own brand new identity. If you look at the last hour of the film it really stands out and is more often then not – entertaining.

But we always remember that this isn’t an original, it’s a borrowed toy that was just used a couple of times and then thrown back into the cluttered Hollywood chest.

Rating: 6/10