Not perfect…but perfectly acceptable. I understand that there’s a die-hard group of Arnie/Verhoeven enthusiasts out there who have no qualms with out-rightly decrying this remake, and admittedly I thought that I may be one of them, as I still have a fond place in my heart for the gory, satirical 1990 ‘original’. But in the end, I found myself surprisingly entertained by this rather inventive twist on the familiar story. One of the wisest moves of the new one is the decision to completely abandon any involvement of Mars (with the exception of a couple ‘wink wink’ lines of dialogue). This version is completely Earth-based. Apparently, at the end of the 21st century, the surface of our planet has been largely scoured clean (or toxic) by a mass chemical weapons bombardment during one of our many omnipresent conflicts. Left standing are two main territories: a dystopian version of future Britain and an equally bleak version of Australia, connected by a silly but kinda cool mass elevator system called The Fall. The Fall cuts through the planet on a daily basis as a glorified commuter shuttle for those who live in ‘New Britain’ but work in The Colony. One of these factory workers is, of course, Doug Quaid (Colin Farrel). Doug lives in a shitty apartment with his impossibly hot paramedic wife Lori (Kate Beckinsale) and is plagued by a vivid and violent recurring dream. In his bid to spice up his life, he visits The Rekall Lounge in order to acquire some new memories. During the procedure, shit goes wrong and Quaid finds himself in touch with his inner Jason Bourne, right down to the meditative pauses seconds before fucking up large groups of heavily armed assailants. And thus begins the ‘chase’ movie. Aside from a slew of clever futuristic details (love the hand phones!), it’s in this portion that the flick really takes off, at times, literally. Two key action scenes really stood out for me. One was a high-octane foot pursuit through the Blade Runneresque environment, with Quaid fleeing desperately from his scary, handgun-toting wife and an army of (essentially) storm troopers, and the other was a cool hover car chase that looked like it took a page from Spielbergs Minority Report (2002) and amped it up a notch or two. There is a good number of well-played action scenes sprinkled throughout Total Recall, and many are quite exciting. The grand finale ended up being somewhat underwhelming for me as it prominently involved characters doing convenient things that laughed in the face of logic and physics. Seriously, a building sized elevator shooting through a tunnel at mind-numbing speed and our heroes can just climb around the outside with impunity? C’mon! They’d have been torn off the moment they stuck their idiot heads out the window! But, it’s all good. As a (silly) narrative device, it’s sorta forgivable. SORTA. The cast is decent and steps up to the plate. Jessica Biel turns up as a prominent resistance fighter in Dougs secret life while Walter White himself Bryan Cranston, steps into the role previously inhabited by the great Ronny Cox, as uber-villain Cohaagan. John Cho (the Harold and Kumar series) pops up for a tiny scene that I personally think should’ve been extended but in the end turned out all too brief, while Bokeem Woodbine is Quaids duplicitous asshole of a best friend. And speaking of extended, I saw the Extended version and thought some of the added touches (that I read up on) were fairly cool. One was a glorified cameo from Ethan Hawke, who basically just turns up as a ‘floating head’ hologram to intensely spout filler and exposition. The other main ‘stand out’ is the unceremonious ‘reveal’ of Biels’ relationship to the leader of The Resistance. I would’ve figured that ‘Extended’ may have also meant ‘Unrated’ but evidently I was wrong. While the 1990 version is gleefully unapologetic in the ‘spraying blood’ department, this one is virtually bloodLESS. As in, I don’t remember one scene where the red stuff is actually messily spilled. That includes a prominent scene of self-mutilation. But all in all, this version (in my opinion) does NOT embarrass the ‘original’, and even adds some sweet details to the story. It’s nothing earth-shattering but if you just want to shut your grey matter off and be entertained with some kinetic action and inspired visuals, Total Recall will fit the bill.
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