Not a total waste
The remake of the popular 1990 sci-fi action film “Total Recall” offers less goofy humor and a lower body count than its predecessor, and it is certainly missing one big Austrian protagonist. But little of that should or will matter to today’s audiences who just want a decent adventure film with some cool visuals, non-stop action and a story that doesn’t insult the intelligence.
In that sense, “Total Recall” delivers a serviceable piece of updated movie product. Make no mistake about it, this go-round the goal isn’t to re-imagine the original (which was also based on Philip K. Dick’s short story), but rather to adapt the source material to a more visually-stimulated contemporary audience by upgrading the look of both the set design and, quite frankly, the lead actors.
Colin Farrell is Douglas Quaid, a ‘regular Joe’ assembly worker at a high-tech factory in the latter part of the 21st century. Quaid commutes to work from his impoverished homeland, “The Colony” (the former Australia) via a 17-minute hyperspeed elevator ride thousands of miles away to “The United Federation of Britain” (the former United Kingdom).
Chemical warfare has wiped out most of the world, so despite waking up next to his gorgeous wife Lori (Kate Beckinsale), Doug wants more. Eschewing the advice of co-worker and friend Harry (Bokeem Woodbine), Doug checks out a company called “Rekall,” that allows people to live out their fantasies by creating alternative memories. Next thing you know Doug is a highly-skilled killing machine, unsure of his real identity, befriended by new gal Melina (Jessica Biel). So far, the plot of this remake offers few substantive differences from the original, but that is of little consequence.
What this “Total Recall” lacks in charm and complexity it makes up for with relentless action, including some pretty intricate and exciting chase sequences and a visual design that undoubtedly borrows liberally from similarly futuristic thrillers like “Blade Runner” and “Minority Report.” (You can do worse than to aspire to Scott and Spielberg-level genius.)
Two great effects stand out: a hand-injected cell phone that when pressed against glass produces its own display (nifty), and several sequences which deploy the anti-gravity effect (think of “Inception”). Farrell gets to showcase his decent action hero cred (he’s far more a self-serious Jeremy Renner personna than he is a self-aware Bruce Willis type), while Beckinsale and Biel have plenty of brawn beneath their beauty.
No one who’s seen it is going to forget Arnold, but for those (presumably young) audiences who haven’t seen the original, or those, (presumably old) who simply can’t “recall,” the 2012 “Total Recall,” is by no means a lazy re-do.
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, brief nudity, and language.