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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, August 3 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 31
Total Recall: just forget it
Arts & Entertainment
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Total Recall: just forget it

by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

TOTAL RECALL
Opens August 3


Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell) doesn't feel like himself. He's having strange dreams of an escapade involving gunfire, explosions, and a mysterious lithe and sexy woman named Melina (Jessica Biel) who is nothing at all like his sweet and sensitive wife Lori (Kate Beckinsale). Against the advice of his best friend, Harry (Bokeem Woodbine), to put some of these demons to rest the bedraggled factory worker takes a trip to the fake memory implantation clinic Rekall to live out his fantasies. Seems as harmless an idea as any, and for the life of him he can't come up with a reason not to at least check the place out.

Big mistake. Next thing Doug knows he's being hunted by the very wife he thought adored him; saved by the mystery woman who, he was certain, was a figment of his imagination; and discovers he might be the central cog in a planet-wide battle for control between the iron-fisted Chancellor Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston) and the enigmatic rebel messiah Matthias (Bill Nighy). But is it real? Or is this all just a fantasy buried within his subconscious by the folks at Rekall? After all, the fate of the entire Earth can't rest in the hands of a single man.

Or can it?

Len Wiseman's adrenaline-fueled remake of the Paul Verhoeven/Arnold Schwarzenegger favorite Total Recall plays more like a souped-up futuristic version of The Bourne Identity or The Long Kiss Goodnight more than it does anything else. Only the barest bones of Philip K. Dick's original story We Can Remember It For You Wholesale remain, and while there are plenty of gentle nods in the direction of the 1990 flick, the only allusions to Mars here are made in sarcastic jest. No, the man behind the Underworld adventures and Live Free or Die Hard isn't particularly interested in breaking rules, treading new ground, or delivering anything we haven't seen before. He wants to blow stuff up, break a ton of glass, and shoot a whole heck of a lot of guns, and by and large on that front he gleefully succeeds.

But where is the story? Where is the mystery? Where is the common sense or anything even approaching a decent - let alone good - idea? The film runs almost on autopilot, the plot mechanics beholden to all the heavy artillery and wildly ambitious stunts. Nothing about this movie feels, sounds, or looks organic, and as beautifully realized (from a visual standpoint) as all of it might be, it's all in service to a story not even slightly worthy of the effort.

There are moments, of course, and both Farrell and Beckinsale throw themselves into the chaos with laudable abandon. But the script, by Kurt Wimmer (Salt) and Mark Bomback (Unstoppable), is a total mess, reveling in clichés that were passé back when Schwarzenegger was making Raw Deal and Commando. There is a freeze-dried silliness to everything that's stupefying in its blandness, and not even Cranston or Nighy can help pull this film out of the abyss.

What's truly weird is just how boring all of this is. Wiseman can stage an action sequence as good as anyone, and unlike many of his contemporaries he doesn't over-edit to the point of headache-inducing confusion, but there is something so rudimentary about all of the running, jumping, falling, kicking, and punching - something so tired about all the crashes, booms, and bangs - that the resulting two-hour enterprise has an oddly antiseptic quality, making Total Recall instantly, and ironically, forgettable.

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