Colin Farrell is back again as an odd choice for action hero playing “Average Joe” Douglas Quaid. He is a factory worker who helps produce police bots for his world that has been divided in to two separate factions. The remaining world that has survived chemical war fare are living on various levels, all controlled by the government. Douglas’ world remains a stink hole lower class existence until he arrives at Rekall, anxious to install artificial memories in to his brain for the sake of amusement. Upon implanting a fantasy in his mind, Quaid learns he is really a super spy, and now Chancellor Cohaagen who is slowly rising to power, is after him. Along with him and his army of robotic police, there’s Doug’s smoking hot wife Lori, who is revealed to be a skilled assassin who is driven to kill Douglas at all costs.
One thing you have to give to Len Wiseman is that he really knows how to deliver a beautiful film. Despite his over abundance of lens flares that are prominent in almost every scene, his “Total Recall” looks dynamite. Wiseman opens up the world we saw in the original 1990 movie with marvelous special effects, mixed with the ace photography. I wouldn’t call Wiseman’s visuals in his version of “Total Recall” superior, just different. Wiseman is great about improving on certain elements from “Total Recall” most of all the martial arts scenes which are absolutely fantastic. Kate Beckinsale is a beast as the femme fatale taking over for Sharon Stone and she’s a villain to really fear. Beckinsale is the only cast member who comes out rosey here, and frankly I wouldn’t mind a spin off movie about her character.
You assume all of those elements would amount to at least a half decent remake of the 1990 Paul Verhoeven film, but sadly it doesn’t. Even going in with the lowest expectations and highest optimism, “Total Recall” is lifeless and painfully boring. I don’t think Wiseman had to revive the camp from the original film (truthfully I don’t even think he knows how to inject camp in a film), but would it have hurt to make “Total Recall” feel more vibrant and exciting? We are dealing with a narrative in which a man gets to live out his biggest fantasy and is never sure if he’s dreaming or awake, so where’s the energy? Where’s the excitement? Where’s the sense of adventure in all of this? Wiseman is very clever about depicting this Phillip K. Dick adaptation to look very similar to the color palette from “Minority Report,” but that works against the narrative rather than for it.
Instead of at least giving the movie a subtle sense of wit or dark humor, there’s such a stern dramatic tone that keeps the film consistently slogging through a snail’s pacing. I was struggling to really pay attention to what was unfolding, and without a distraction I’d surely have fallen asleep. Wiseman isn’t a fan of ambiguity apparently, opting for a very grand climax wide in scope that wastes Bryan Cranston to an almost criminal degree. With Wiseman and co. opening themselves to a sequel, it’s no surprise that the director and writers ditch all ambiguity in the finale for a more pronounced ending. With a hackneyed final scene, “Total Recall” cements itself as a pretty crummy remake of a film that needed no reworking to begin with.