On a visual level, the shiny new CGI-swathed version of Total Recall is worth watching – for the slick landscapes alone. But apart from that, you can expect VFX overkill and dollops of boredom as the hero Colin Farrell battles futuristic police squads, scheming women and the script’s unrelenting blandness.
What made Paul Verhoeven’s 1990 movie so memorable were the twists and turns, which were way ahead of their time back then. And at Arnold Schwarzenegger at his best, it was a great blend of pulp, cutting edge special effects and sci fi action. This time around, writer Kurt Wimmer merely rearranges the furniture of the original film by adding some chase scenes and completely sucking out the humor. The story remains the same – Douglas Quaid (Farrell) is a bored factory worker who has recurring nightmares of a hot woman (Jessica Biel) and is married to an equally eye popping woman (Kate Beckinsale). Quaid visits Rekall, a shifty entertainment center which plants false vacation memories in your head, but things go haywire when cops break in to arrest him and he shoots down every one of them. What follows are the exact same events that transpire in the original, and if you’ve seen that movie, you are advised not to expect anything more.
The majority of the movie has Quaid on the run, this might be interesting to those not familiar with the Verhoeven movie or Phillip K Dick’s short story on which it is based. For the rest, director Len Wiseman continually tends to frustrate, neither being faithful to the book nor having any respect for the original movie. The film’s only big homage moment is the appearance of the iconic three-boobed lady, but by that time you are left exhausted by the complete lack of innovation or freshness in the film. Wiseman, who made the first two Underworld movies and the fun Die Hard 4 seems to have mastered the art of showcasing his wife Beckinsale in a variety of action heroine poses – unlike in the original where the character is killed off midway, she hunts down Quaid all the way up until the finale. The bright spot is her hand to hand fight with the muscular Biel in an elevator, though it gets over in a flash.
There is plenty of frenetic action but sadly it is never exciting – the action set pieces are just layer upon layer of crummy video game cutscenes. Farrell plays a one-note confused Jason Bourne and is a far cry from the charismatically hammy action superstardom of Schwarzenegger. This is Farrell's second remake after Fright Night and one can only hope that he sticks to original indies like In Bruges, because he certainly does not have the chops for a big box office draw.
(First published in MiD Day)