In the near future, the world has become almost uninhabitable. The only areas with breathable air are The United Federation of Britain and The Colony (Australia). The rich one percent live in the UFB and force The Colony to occupy slums and work grueling hours in factories.
Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell: Fright Night) is one of these factory drones. He spends his days screwing bolts in an assembly line, his nights drinking with buddies and moping around his grim apartment. The only bright spot in his ho-hum life is his smoking-hot wife Lori (Kate Beckinsale: Underworld: Awakening).
Life gets more exciting when Quaid goes to Rekall, a company that specializes in implanting false memories into your brain.
Before the lab geeks can chemically alter his brain, soldiers burst in. Turns out Quaid is a spy named Hauser who had his memory erased after a mission gone wrong. Lori isn’t his wife but an agent for the UFB, ordered to kill him if he steps out of line.
That may be true, or Quaid may be having a bad reaction to brain-scrambling chemicals.
The problem with Total Recall is that there’s very little fantasy and absolutely no fun in this anemic remake of the 1990 Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle. Director Len Wiseman (Live Free or Die Hard) creates a confused, overly serious adaptation. Action is stiff, writing ridiculous and fun is very little.
The original film was a bloody, chaotic thrill featuring Schwarzenegger’s wooden acting and practical effects. The update is an audience-friendly PG-13, which means that action is reduced to smashing cars, fights are relatively bloodless and CGI effects rule.
But for the14-year-old boys of the world, there’s still a good look at the infamous three-breasted prostitute.
Wiseman may not be capable of directing a great movie, but he’s certainly seen a few. He steals his set design from Blade Runner, his action sequences from Raiders of the Lost Ark and his car chases from The Fifth Element.
The cast is as lost as the director, with the three principals seemingly starring in different movies. Farrell, still striving for a comeback, plays it straight. He has more depth and reach than Schwarzenegger, but the film isn’t well enough written to merit a subtle performance. Beckinsale is reduced to her usual role of sexy badass who shoots guns and punches boys while panting through perfectly glossed open lips. Jessica Biel is little more than set dressing, using her big emotional moments to pout her lips and widen her eyes.
In fairness, this disastrous film may have been inevitable: It seems impossible for Hollywood to successfully remake a Schwarzenegger film. Terminator Salvation was a bust; the new Conan the Barbarian a disaster; and now we have this lifeless Total Recall. Is it possible that Schwarzenegger was secretly the greatest actor of his generation? Food for thought.