Posted March 28, 2012 by David Watson in Films
 
 

Total Recall


***This review almost definitely contains spoilers***

***This review
almost definitely contains spoilers***

Watching Len Wiseman’s
lacklustre remake/retread/reboot/regurgitation (delete as you feel applicable)
of Paul Verhoeven’s 1990 sci-fi
classic Total Recall don’t be
alarmed if you’re continually distracted from the frenetic but uninvolving
spectacle before you by several recurring questions: Why would someone bother
remaking this film? Why am I
bothering to watch it? Does the
plot really revolve around a f*cking
elevator?
Has Len Wiseman actually
managed to tit up the three-titted hooker? In case you’re wondering, the answers are: Greed and
intellectual bankruptcy. Who the Hell
knows why you’re watching? Yes,
it’s about a f*cking elevator.
Yes, Wiseman somehow managed to tit up the three-titted hooker.

By the end of the 21st century, the Earth has
been devastated by chemical warfare leaving the only habitable areas the evil,
despotic United Federation of Britain (where everyone seems to be American) and
The Colony (formerly Australia where everyone, again, seems to be American). Just as today when a migrant workforce
of Australians travel to Britain to monopolise our bar jobs, the future residents
of The Colony must travel to Britain every
day
by means of a gravity elevator drilled through the Earth’s core (yup,
the aforementioned f*cking elevator)
to work in menial factory jobs building the robocops that enslave them on
behalf of Britain’s villainous ruler Chancellor Cohaagen (Breaking Bad’s Bryan
Cranston
).

Unfulfilled by his work on the assembly line building
robocops and bored of going home every night to schtup the director’s wife (Kate Beckinsale in the Sharon Stone role), Average Joe and
Colony resident Doug Quaid (Colin
Farrell
) decides to take a vacation from himself and visits Rekall where he
can have his wildest fantasies implanted in his head as realistic
memories. By John Cho. Let’s just
stop and think about that for a second.
Would you trust Harold from Harold
And Kumar
to screw around with your brain?

Doug does and after choosing to have a fantasy life as a
secret agent implanted, wouldn’t you know it, he discovers he really is a secret agent whose mind has been
wiped by the evil Cohaagen after falling in love with comely Resistance fighter
Melina (Jessica Biel) while his wife
is revealed to be a ball-busting bitch assassin out to kill him and his
fractured mind may just hold the secret to freeing The Colony’s huddled masses from
the tyrannical rule of the Brits.
But with Cohaagen gearing up to use his droid army to invade The Colony
(using, you guessed it, that f*cking elevator), Quaid and Melina find
themselves in a race against time to stop him.

There’s a moment in Total
Recall
that could almost serve as an indictment of the whole sorry excuse
for a film. Colin Farrell is
fighting a robot. In an
elevator. Yes, director Wiseman seems
to have something of a fetish for elevators. Beside him, Jessica Biel and Kate Beckinsale are engaged in
12a-rated hand-to-hand combat.
While they may be lovely to look at, be honest, neither Biel nor
Beckinsale has ever given a performance that’s been liable to trouble Oscar
voters. Watching them fight is
possibly less involving than watching a couple of Transformers go at it.
They could be naked and wrestling in a hot tub full of baked beans and
it probably still wouldn’t raise your pulse. But look closely.
If you stare really intently, if you squint, as he’s punching the robot,
you can actually see the light die in Colin Farrell’s eyes. “Did I really get clean and sober for
this sh*te?” he seems to be thinking, “Thank feck I’ve got Martin McDonagh’s
new film on the horizon.”

The problem with Total
Recall
isn’t that it’s bad. Or
that it’s dumb. It’s that it’s so bad and so dumb. Leave aside
the frankly insulting concept of it being about a lift that travels through the
Earth’s core. THE EARTH’S F*CKING CORE! Where temperatures are in excess of 5000°C! Leave aside the fact that every day the
inhabitants of Australia (who all sound American. Even the Irish ones) are so poor they have to travel by this
elevator to work in Britain’s factories building robots. Leave aside the fact that we’ve
invented autonomous robot policeman but haven’t bothered teaching them to build
more robots thus eliminating the need both for the elevator and the indentured
Australian workforce (who still all sound American. Just saying).
Leave aside the fact that the destruction of the elevator would mean not
freedom but the crash of The Colony’s economy and society. Forget all of that. The dumbest thing about Total Recall is casting Colin Farrell,
COLIN FARRELL, one of Tinseltown’s most charismatic and notorious pussy hounds,
as a man who, when propositioned by a hooker with three, count ‘em, THREE tits
looks confused and asks for directions to the place that sells fake
memories. There’s not a snowball’s
chance in Hell of that happening.
The Colin Farrell we know and love would saddle up and create some brand
spanking new memories. Quite
possibly involving spanking. And
right there’s the problem with Total
Recall
. It’s timid. It’s bland. It’s safe.

Which is one thing Verhoeven’s original was not. Verhoeven’s Total Recall was a smart, political, bitingly funny satire
masquerading as a rabidly bonkers, full-blooded, testosterone-fuelled slice of
mayhem in which the Governator’s kill-crazy rampage across two planets and his freeing
of the beleaguered Martian proletariat from Earth’s despotic Nazi rule may all,
slyly, have been part of the main character’s blissful psychotic fantasy. By contrast, Wiseman’s remake is a
boring, po-faced, anemic, CGI-heavy cheat sheet stealing all of its best
moments from other, better movies.
You like the Mag-Lev car chase sequence from Minority Report? How
about that mind-boggling shifting gravity fight scene from Inception? Maybe the
free-running chases of the Bourne
movies? Well, Total Recall has them all, they’re just a teeny bit crapper. It lacks the ambiguity of the original,
the gleefully gratuitous sex and violence, the cartoonish energy, the
humour. It’s dull. It’s boring. And no film featuring a hooker with three tits should be
boring.

It’s not the fault of the actors. A sexy, charismatic performer, Farrell tries manfully but
the script does him few favours.
He’d have made a meal of Arnie’s dialogue from the original movie,
roguishly spitting out one-liners as he blows away baddies but, in a script shorn
of humour, he never gets the chance to be anything other than earnest and
confused. Biel wanders through the
film looking like an attractive but startled dolphin, light years removed from
the feisty, ass-kicking heroine Rachel
Ticotin
was but she’s not called upon to be anything more than the wet love
interest while Beckinsale seems once again to have been cast in a Wiseman film
because she’s Wiseman’s wife. Here
she’s called upon to fill the shoes of both Sharon Stone and Michael Ironside
as Quaid’s pursuer and manages to be neither as tough or sexy as either. Bill
Nighy
shuffles on for a little while as the leader of the Resistance and is
Bill Nighy with a bad American accent.
Bryan Cranston’s Cohaagen, while never as lip-smackingly evil as Ronny Cox, is a perfectly fine evil
dictator even if he never actually represents much of a threat to our hero. Someone, somewhere should have started
getting nervous when they realised the climax of the film would be a punch-up
between a fit, young, hell-raising, Irish brawler and Malcolm In The Middle’s dad.

It’d be easy to lay the blame for Total Recall at the feet of writers Mark Bomback and Kurt Wimmer
but what did you expect from a collaboration between the men who separately
brought us Race to Witch Mountain
and Ultraviolet? Coherent, intelligent, boundary-pushing
cinema? We could blame Wiseman but
it’s rather sweet that he keeps casting the missus despite her thespian shortcomings. Ultimately, who really cares who’s to
blame? It’s just a film. A bad film. One which, if Rekall actually existed, you’d have wiped from
your memory and replaced with the memory of another, better film. Maybe the memory of this cool science
fiction flick from the early ‘90s about a guy who discovers his memory’s been
wiped…


David Watson

 
David Watson is a screenwriter, journalist and 'manny' who, depending on time of day and alcohol intake could be described as a likeable misanthrope or a carnaptious bampot. He loves about 96% of you but there's at least 4% he'd definitely eat in the event of a plane crash. Email: david.watson@filmjuice.com