Film: Total Recall
Cast: Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, Bryan Cranston and Bokeem Woodbine, Bill Nighy
Director: Len Wiseman
Plot Synopsis: A factory worker, Douglas Quaid, begins to suspect that he is a spy after visiting Rekall - a company that provides its clients with implanted fake memories of a life they would like to have led - goes wrong and he finds himself on the run.
Colin Farrell reprises the role of Arnold Schwarzenegger as Douglas Quaid in the action-thriller. But is it a total recall of the 1990 hit, is it better or worse? Critics speak
Christy Lemire, Associated Press
Seriously, this movie has no sense of humor — there are maybe two jokes, both of which are callbacks to the first movie. Farrell doesn't get to utter any corny one-liners as he rips off a bad guy's arms. And maybe this is good, this attempt at reinvention. It certainly makes director Len Wiseman's film move more energetically and efficiently, at least until the repetitive and overlong ending: a barrage of anonymous automatic gunfire and heavy-duty explosions.
Both films are super violent — Paul Verhoeven's came with an R-rating more than two decades ago because, well, he's Paul Verhoeven — but less seems to be at stake in this latest version. Farrell is certainly a better actor than Schwarzenegger and he's capable of far more emotional complexity, but Schwarzenegger was better at conveying a sense of panic and fear, of discombobulation. You actually felt for him as he struggled to piece together his past and tried to determine whom he could trust. Farrell is confident and competent regardless of the situation; there never seems to be any real threat of him coming out alive.
The densely packed vertical urban sprawl of The Colony, a multicultural ghetto that's kinda Japanese and kinda Russian and constantly rainy, is the impressively detailed, vividly rendered work of production designer Patrick Tatopoulos. It has an imposing, dreary grandeur reminiscent of "Blade Runner," also based on Dick's writing.
One vast improvement here is that the women are stronger and fiercer than they were in the original; Rachel Ticotin's Melina was the proverbial hooker with a heart of gold and Sharon Stone's Lori was a sweetly passive housewife. Here, when Biel and Beckinsale square off against each other, it's with all the skill and intensity of the men. Similarly, they don't break a single bone as they scramble across rooftops and leap from one ridiculously perilous height after another.
Verdict: New Total Recall slicker but soulless
Justin Lowe, The Hollywood Reporter
Drawing again from the seminal Philip K. Dick short story We Can Remember It for You Wholesale, the current version directed by Len Wiseman retains the essentials of the original material but twists the action more toward a futuristic thriller.
The outcome is engaging enough, though not entirely satisfying from either a genre or narrative standpoint, lacking substance and a degree of imagination. Brand recognition, along with the curiosity factor and a name cast in muscular action roles, should make for a lucrative first weekend, but falloff could be somewhat steep in subsequent frames.
Stripping the storyline of the original movie’s Mars-travel subplot, the five credited writers cherry-pick from a selection of sci-fi classics to dress up what’s essentially a thriller template with futuristic plot and visual elements. The central narrative concerning a man pursued by mysterious forces with no apparent connection to his present life is familiar from any number of spy thrillers but affords a weak foundation for the current remake.
Standing in for Schwarzenegger in the lead role is no small feat, and rather than try to emulate, Farrell’s performance emphasizes his speed and acting ability, though this is far from one of his better roles. While he succeeds well enough, the script’s dearth of character development doesn’t give him much to work with. Indeed, there are so few pauses in the breathless action that Farrell barely has the chance to develop the romantic subplot with Biel’s rebel leader Melina before they’re back on the run again.
Wiseman shows a strong command of the film’s disparate elements, effectively uniting the street-level scenes set in the squalid Colony with the higher-tech chases through the sleek confines of the UFB. Without much backstory to lend the characters, Wiseman focuses on highlighting the action sequences and setting them convincingly within the futuristic world. Both the production design and the visual effects supervision by Peter Chiang unite the physical and virtual components to create a seamless landscape, while cinematographer Paul Cameron capably encapsulates the film’s paranoid tone and editor Christian Wagner sets a relentless pace.
Verdict: A re-imagined sci-fi narrative that never quite gains traction, despite a game cast and robust visual style.
A.O. Scott, The New York Times
This premise contains the seeds of an interesting economic and political allegory, but the ambitions of the filmmakers — Len Wiseman directed a script by Kurt Wimmer and Mark Bomback — lie in the direction of maximum noise and minimum sense. The movie has a lot of chasing, shouting and fighting, carried out in crowded, overscale frames without much regard for either action-film effectiveness or narrative coherence. So much information is thrown at you in such a haphazard fashion that your ability to care dwindles along with your willingness to enjoy any of it.
Life is not fair: Mr. Farrell is one of the hardest-working would-be movie stars in the game, whereas Mr. Schwarzenegger is among the laziest action heroes in history. But after more than 20 years I retain a vivid memory of Mr. Schwarzenegger saying, “Consider that a divorce,” after putting a bullet in Ms. Stone’s head. After less than 24 hours I can’t recall anything Mr. Farrell said or did, other than run from Ms. Beckinsale, sometimes in the company of Jessica Biel.
Verdict: But this “Total Recall” has less to do with Dick than its predecessor did, and it might have fared better without the baggage of expectation and comparison that it inevitably carries. A science-fiction movie about a guy on the run and the two slender, combative, black-suited women who may or may not love him might not be all that memorable, but it would at least be forgettable on its own terms.
Lewis Wallace, Wired.com
All the “was it a dream?” mumbo-jumbo that seemed so twisty and exciting two decades ago just feels like a rehash at this point, what with Inception having recently taken that kind of sci-fi brain-bending to its artful extreme.
Instead of a brain-bending blast of sci-fi fun, we’re left with a total retread. The race to recover hidden items, the videotaped messages from the past, the drone army, the lens flares, the silly subversive slogans on city walls — it’s one slick-looking flashback to other, better movies, all sandwiched between frenetic action scenes.
The story seems so rote, and the characters so soulless, that it’s almost impossible to give half a crap about Quaid as he tangles with his cunning wife Lori (a rather relentless Kate Beckinsale) and reconnects with his dream girl from the past, a resistance fighter named Melina (Jessica Biel).
Beckinsale kicks a fair amount of ass in the film even though her colleagues on the police force shoot like stormtroopers. But Farrell’s flat performance makes it hard to care whether the endless sprays of automatic gunfire ever hit home. I’ll take Arnold Schwarzenegger’s hammy original take on the Quaid character any day, but probably no actor could utter this script’s clunky one-liners and come away unscathed.
The one place director Wiseman (Live Free or Die Hard, the Underworld films) clearly excels is the action.
There’s a tremendous use of vertical space during these sequences as the characters, whether on foot or in flying cars, tear through futuristic cityscapes. Energetic yet easy to follow, the chases unfold almost like a platformer come to life.
Maybe Wiseman’s Total Recall wouldn’t feel so superficial if the original film hadn’t made such an indelible impression with its topsy-turvy tone, Schwarzenegger’s bugged-out eyes and the big Kuato reveal. But in the shadow of Verhoeven’s cult classic, even the remake’s nods to the original (yes, there’s a three-breasted mutant) feel forced and lame.
Verdict: If you’ve never seen the original, or even if you have, do yourself a favor and skip the remake. Queue up the 1990 version to refresh your memory about how much fun a sci-fi flick can be.
Watch the 1990 Total Recall Trailer
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.
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.