out of Five
Running time: 118
Despite a promising opening half hour, a selection of nifty gadgets and some top class special effects work, Total Recall remains an entirely pointless remake thanks to a messy script, a lack of chemistry between the three leads and a failure to grasp what made the original film so enjoyable in the first place.
What's it all about?
Directed by Len Wiseman, Total Recall is a remake of the Schwarzenegger-starring 1990 futuristic thriller and stars Colin Farrell as Arnold, sorry, Douglas Quaid, a bored factory worker married to beautiful cop Lori (Kate Beckinsale), who decides to spice up his life by visiting memory implant agency Rekall. However, during the procedure, something goes terribly wrong and Douglas ends up on the run after gunning down a handful of cops who burst into the clinic and kill everyone.
When Doug returns home and Lori tries to kill him, he quickly discovers that his whole life has been a memory implant and that totalitarian leader ‘The Chancellor’ (Bryan Cranston) had hidden him away under Lori's watch for his own nefarious purposes. While running for his life, he follows a trail of clues left by his real self (keep up at the back there) and eventually hooks up with resistance fighter Melina (Jessica Biel), who tells him he's actually freedom fighter Cole Hauser. But is all of this real or just the secret agent memory implant Douglas ordered?
The only real reason to remake Total Recall is the fact that effects technology has changed so much since the original film. To that end, the visual effects are genuinely impressive, with stunning, rain-drenched cityscapes (several of which are swiped from Blade Runner) and a selection of nifty gadgetry on display, the highlight of which is the i-Fridge (to the film's credit, there's no actual product placement for once). There are also a number of enjoyable and occasionally subtle nods to the original film; the three-breasted hooker cameo being one of the less subtle.
To be fair, the opening half hour of the film is a fair amount of fun, with pacey chase sequences and some nicely staged action scenes. The problem is that the film rapidly falls apart once the plot kicks into gear, not least because there's zero chemistry between any of the three leads and Farrell can't quite muster up enough emotional energy to make you care about who Doug really is.
On top of that, the film fails to deliver on its most basic of promises (such as the expected Beckinsale vs Biel catfight) and the third act is extremely disappointing, suggesting that Wiseman didn't actually bother to check whether his plot made any sense. There's also a tiny appearance by Bill Nighy that stops the film stone dead, such is the terribleness of his acting.
Despite a promising start, this is ultimately something of a disappointment. Rewatch the original instead.