Review: TOTAL RECALL (2012) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Review: TOTAL RECALL (2012)

RATING: 2.5/5

Back in 1990, Paul Verhoeven's TOTAL RECALL was an outrageously violent, sci-fi action extravaganza that had been hailed as genre classic. More than a decade later, TOTAL RECALL has made a comeback -- with some makeover. This time, there's no Mars at sight and the lead character of Douglas Quaid isn't the muscle-bound Arnold Schwarzenegger-type but instead replaced by an everyman kind of role played by Colin Farrell. And of course, the movie reduced its sex and violence significantly from a hard R-rating to an audience-friendly PG-13. Yup, Len Wiseman's $138 million-budgeted remake has all the necessary elements of a typical summer-movie blockbuster, except that this new TOTAL RECALL lacks the playful enthusiasm the way Verhoeven did successfully the first time around.

The story is more or less the same, even without its Mars subplot. Here, the movie opens with a brief description that a global chemical warfare has left the Earth uninhabitable except for the Colony and the United Federation of Britain (UFB). A factory worker named Douglas Quaid (Farrell) lives in the Colony, and happily married to a beautiful wife, Lori (Kate Beckinsale) who works as a UFB agent. However Quaid is always disturbed by a frequent same dream about him being a secret agent and a mysterious woman he never met in the real life before. At the same time, he begins to feel bored with his same old routine and wants something different in his life.

Then he finds out about a company named Rekall, which is able to provide him the memory of anything he desires of -- which in his case, the ultimate espionage adventure as a secret agent. After convinced by one of his co-workers named Marek (Will Yun Lee) about the memory trip, Quaid decides to pay a visit to Rekall.

But during the implant, something goes wrong. He is strapped to the chair when the system suddenly breaks down and his identity is quickly exposed as a spy. Not long after, the authorities already burst into the Rekall premise and attempts to take him down. Unbeknownst to Quaid himself, he is surprised that he's able to take down a platoon of heavily-armed law enforcers within a short moment. He subsequently made his escape back to his home and finds out that Lori is actually a double-agent who works for the tyrannical Chancellor Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston). She reveals that she's not his wife and she is now being ordered to catch him alive.

As Quaid manages to make his escape again, he joins forces with rebel soldier Melina (Jessica Biel), the exact same woman from his dream and together they goes on a mission to track down Matthias (Bill Nighy), the head of a resistance movement that is being mistaken as a terrorist organization by Cohaagen.

Apparently Cohaagen actually wants to control the entire free world. In the meantime, Quaid continues to fight for the truth about his identity and subsequently learns that his memory had actually been altered all this while.

Despite a few makeovers from Kurt Wimmer and Mark Bomback's script, the overall story feels hopelessly generic. Everything here is predictable even before the movie gets ahead. While Verhoeven's version is more about non-stop fun, Len Wiseman chooses the moodier route which favors over BLADE RUNNER (1982) and MINORITY REPORT (2002)-like filmmaking style. Too bad Wiseman's direction is lackluster especially the way he handles the storyline. But he remains adept when comes to elaborate action sequences. As a matter of fact, the action here are mostly the saving grace. Among the worthwhile moments are the hover chase scene and the intense catfight scene in the elevator between Lori and Melina.

The cast, in the meantime, is a mixed bag. Colin Farrell is certainly have tough shoes to fill in for Schwarzenegger's iconic role as Douglas Quaid. He may looks convincing as an everyman caught in an unlikely situation but his acting leaves little to be desired of. Let's just say he spends most of the time looking constipated. Kate Beckinsale is amazing in her bitchy role as Lori especially the way how she shows such tremendous physicality during the action scenes. Similar to Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel is just as convincing as a kick-ass Melina. The rest of the supporting actors, including a lame villainous role by Bryan Cranston as Cohaagen and thankless cameo by Bill Nighy as Matthias, are sadly misused.

Production-wise, TOTAL RECALL borrows heavily from BLADE RUNNER -- the rain-slicked streets, the high-rise filled with neon signs -- and even all the fantastical settings/elements are shamelessly lifted off from countless other movies including MINORITY REPORT (the chase scene) and I, ROBOT (the synthetic army). Special effects are particularly nothing to shout about, while Harry Gregson-Williams's score is so typical that he is no match to the late Jerry Goldsmith's memorable orchestral score in the original TOTAL RECALL.

For those who have watched Verhoeven's TOTAL RECALL, it's obvious that this new version feels totally unnecessary. Then again, viewing this as a standalone movie, it does have its worthwhile moments for a summer-movie blockbuster.


Jay Andrews said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jay Andrews said...

Nice incite Casey. I was intrigued about this film when I first heard about it. Now? Less so, but I'll still watch it.

Dan O. said...

Good review Casey. This film was a whole bunch of fun and even though it was very predictable, I still turned my brain off for a good 2 hours and enjoyed myself. Also, can't go wrong with a cast like Biel, Beckinsale, Farrell, and Cranston, just to name a few.

caseymoviemania said...

Jay Andrews: Yeah, Arnold's version is far better but still this new TOTAL RECALL has its moments. At least it's fairly entertaining.

Dan O.: Hi, Dan. Thanks for the compliment. Yeah, I agree with you. It was very predictable but at least director Len Wiseman knows how to inject some fun-filled excitement.