One scene. One great scene and that's it.
In the second act, an armed to the teeth police squad surrounds Colin Farrell's Douglas Quaid. Into the trap walks, Quaid's best friend who asks probing questions about memories. The questions raised are brilliant. What is real? What is illusion? And how do people whose memories have been tampered with, and who had memories installed that did not really happen, deal with the reality blur?
It gets the wheels turning about how our own minds and memories work. Great stuff for about five-minutes. And then? Another hour of non-stop, effects-laden, mind-numbing action.
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A buff but not beefy Farrell plays Douglas Quaid who lives at the end of the 21st Century. War has polluted Earth with noxious and deadly gasses. Earth's only habitable places are parts of Great Britain, now called the United Federation, and Australia. The slum-like Australia is named The Colony.
Like most of the plot, it's not well-defined but what you have is a basic haves and have nots scenario.
Quaid and other workers in the Colony work in the Federation. To get there they take a transit vehicle called the Fall. It's a gigantic machine whose tunnel goes through the center of the Earth and just past the planet's core. Really? That's your first suspension of disbelief.
It's also a convenient location for a long, drawn out climax.
Quaid has strange dreams about a violent escape from captivity with a woman other than his wife. The wife is Kate Beckinsale's Lori, a drop-dead gorgeous cop with perfect hair and make-up — even in chase scenes. She's working to squash a brewing rebellion over the Federation's heavy-handed governing. Her life is pretty good. His isn't. Something's bothering Quaid and building robot cops for the Federation and having a hotter-than-hot wife is just not enough.
Note to Quaid: there are single guys everywhere who'd trade lives with you in a heartbeat.
Bored out of his skull and unable to resist the need for something different, something better, Quaid goes to Rekall; a firm that specializes in implanting memories that didn't really happen. A reluctant Quaid decides he wants spy experiences inserted into his memory. Shock. It turns out he really is an agent, and is being tracked by police who break into the memory implant firm and try to kill him. A gun battle leaves bunches of Rekall employees and police dead, and Quaid learning he has fighting skills he never dreamed of having.
After escaping, he goes home to find his wife and life aren't what he thought they were.
Total Recall is the original brainchild of sci-fi legend Philip K. Dick. His popularity peaked in the 1950s and 1960s. Dick wrote 44 novels and 121 short stories, most of them published in science fiction magazines. In 1990, one of them, We Can Remember it for You Wholesale became Total Recall
Truthfully, 1990 is a long time ago and I'm having trouble "recalling" all the details, but what I remember is that Total Recall was not a very good movie. It had Arnold Schwarzenegger -- at the top of his career -- going to Mars, blowing things up, beating people up, dodging flying bullets and solving a memory mystery.
The governator's star vehicle played a bit with Dick's theme of tricks of the mind, and the dilemmas and conflicts of memories that are our own, and those that may not really be our own. It just didn't play with the themes very well. Outside of that one, great scene, the "new" Total Recall doesn't either.
Instead, like the Schwarzenegger version, it opts for action over substance.
Director Len Wiseman (Underworld, Live Free or Die Hard), main screenwriters Kurt Wimmer (Salt) and Mark Bomback (Unstoppable) and three other writers — like the four that wrote Schwarzenegger's version — follow very little of Dick's original concept and then inject his unique mind and memory story with steroids.
While seeking his true identity and trying to figure out what's really going on, Farrell's Quaid flies from one action-packed, fight-filled, bullet-ridden scene to another. All are nail-chewing fun and packed with state-of-the-art effects and all — but that one very good scene — miss what could have been a terrific mind trip down memory lanes.
To date, 10 of Dick's sci-fi stories have been made into 11 movies. Other than Blade Runner nine of the icon's excellent stories became not-so-excellent movies. Writers, directors and producers have cut, added to and twisted them into unrecognizable messes.
The 11th film is this redo of Total Recall. To give it some credit, much of Total Recall is guilty pleasure fun. But like its siblings, a plodding, but active plot ends up a violent, predictable mess that — as it moves way too slowly toward the climax — becomes not worth a remake or a recall — total or not.
Mr. Movie rating: 2 1/2 stars
Director: Len Wiseman
Stars: Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, Bryan Cranston, Bokeem Woodbine, Bill Nighy, John Cho
Rated PG-13 for violence, brief nudity, mature themes. It is playing at the Carmike 12, the Fairchild Cinemas 12 and at Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on DVD.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.