Thursday, August 23, 2012

Review (Warning): Total Recall Should Be Totally Recalled.

Seriously. Seriously? WTF!

It’s hard to fathom a reason why Len Wiseman’s Total Recall remake needs to exist. An extremely watered down version of the original, he serves up a criminally boring Total Recall Lite, stripped of everything fun, ingenious, brash, vulgar and ridiculous that made the first one so entertaining.

This is Total Recall without Mars, without mutants, without midgets, without conjoined monster baby Kuato, without human arms being severed by elevators, without memorable one-liners like “BLAM! Consider dat a divorce!”, without eye-popping, or nasal implants, or robot taxi drivers, or a copious amount of blood. It does have a rogue three-breasted prostitute but it fails to explain how she got in that predicament and no other physical deformities are ever present in the film.

Paul Verhoeven and Arnold Schwarzenegger gave us a raging hard-on of a film. Len Wiseman and Colin Farrell gives us a tiny, sad, pale penis.

To find out what else I thought... join me after the jump!

Now I appreciate that both films are based on Phillip K. Dick’s short story We Can Remember it For You Wholesale and that the Arnie version veers from that story significantly. So the remake team are under no obligation to reference the original film at all, and yet they continually do, with so many small, shoe-horned in nods (all of which are clumsily delivered). It leaves you to totally recall how much better this was in 1990. It would have been a better course to just distant it entirely, but instead all the surprises are sapped away because we basically know which beats are coming, and they constantly disappoint for being smaller and less adept than in the film we know and love.

Farrell’s Douglas Quaid is as dissatisfied with his life as I am with this film. Now only two cities continue to exist in a largely uninhabitable world ravished by war. He lives in the Blade Runner-esque slums of Australia, now dubbed “The Colony” (not that we see a single Australian there, just Americans and Asians) and every day (?) he rides an elevator through the center of the earth to his job constructing robot police officers for The United Federation of Britain. 

His restlessness is obviously building up to the point where he decides to spice up his life by getting an implanted memory of a spy adventure from shifty back alley company Rekall, and from that point onward you kind of know the rest. Doug develops sudden fighting prowess, his wife (Kate Beckinsale) tries to murder him, he teams up with a mystery new dream woman (Jessica Beil) and does a whole lot of running.

And that’s all there really is to this movie, half of which is spent watching Kate Beckinsale walk purposefully towards the camera. She chases Colin and Jessica to a new location with her robots, they punch each other and/or shoot at each other for a couple of minutes and then escape to the next location. They catch their breath with a bit of expository dialogue, and then Kate Beckinsale bursts in with her robots and the whole cycle starts again. The film repeats this simple sequence for two hours.

It’s very much a throwback to the most ham-fisted action movies of the eighties/early nineties in that regard except without the sex, violence, profanity or fun. (I’m not sure Colin and Beil even kiss, as though she stipulated that in her contract). Wiseman is convinced that we’ll be excited enough just to watch people punching, shooting and running. It couldn't be less engaging. At least Verhoeven knew how to inventively ramp up the stakes.

But despite excising the lowbrow, it’s such an unsophisticated movie with terribly acted cartoon characters delivering the most wretched cliched dialogue. Political villain: “You will give us your testimony” Emphatic, sweaty female hero: “Never!” Captured swarthy male hero: “You’ve got me! Leave the girl!” It’s almost like a serial from the 1940’s and easily the shittiest big-screen script I’ve endured in a long time and the actors really struggle with it. It's total crap and yet they take it all so seriously which only makes it worse. Schwarzenegger had a dopey naivete that made you believe he wanted to have a spy adventure injected into his head. Colin Farrell doesn't manage to make that believable at all. In fact all of these leads are far better than their performances here suggest which leads me to believe that it must be Wiseman who is inept.

Although how can you rag on Len Wiseman? Looking him up he’s just three years older than I am, has directed a number of feature films, is married to Kate Beckinsale, and isn’t horrible to look at. Do you think Len Wiseman gives a shit? Any criticism towards him would be like an ant biting a T-Rex. If I was him I guess I’d just keep my head down and keep on doing what I was doing.

But his (gigantic unfair) win is ultimately the audience’s loss. The movie is so slow at times that I’m amazed that a two hour version was released without a studio-enforced trim. You could carve 20 minutes or so off it easily with very little impact. And as the whole thing drags on the believability is also stretched. Can we assume that a futuristic elevator, that travels from one side of the earth to the other, is moving many, many times faster than your average jet? Then how the hell do you climb up the side of it to fight on top of it?

It’s not worth your time and it’s not worth my time to continue harping on about it. After a big summer of movies it can be tempting to see the next “big” genre film - because you’re already on such a high - but this certainly isn’t it. Hollywood's summer has ended and these are the leftovers. If I had been watching it at home I would have honestly turned it off. Stick with the original.


  1. Saw the 'Farrell gets a face full of Beckinsale vag' moment again tonight, and damn if that isn't the best thing in the movie.

    1. When did THAT happen? I must have been snoozing.