For a movie about a guy with memory loss, Total Recall seems awfully familiar — and not just because it’s a remake of Paul Verhoeven’s 1990 cult-classic hyper-violent action adaptation of author Philip K. Dick‘s short story “We can Remember It for You Wholesale”. Written by Kurt Wimmer (Equilibrium) and directed by Len Wiseman (the Underworld series), it rehashes its predecessor without bringing in much of anything new.
Colin Farrell replaces Arnold Schwarzenegger in the lead role of Douglas Quaid, an unhappy 22nd-century factory worker who opts to have false memories of life as a secret agent planted in his head by Rekall Inc., a company that specializes in such virtual vacations. The thing is, Quaid appears to actually have been a secret agent whose memories have already been tampered with.
Or was he? A newly schizophrenic Quaid struggles to sort out fact from fiction and figure out how exactly he fits into the political intrigue and between the last two, soon-to-be warring nations on a ravaged future Earth, at the same dodging Lori (Kate Beckinsale), the deep cover agent who had posed as his wife, and swarms of robot soldiers who resemble Imperial Stormtroopers as Steve jobs might have designed them.
Though Recall starts off well, it adds up to very little in the long run. Wimmer and Wiseman — both off whom started off strong about a decade ago but quickly slid into derivative mediocraty — touch upon the notion of how fragile the concepts reality and identity can be, but quickly chuck ideas aside in favor of a tedious, drawn-out, and ultimately bland chase thriller that plays like The Bourne Identity meets Blade Runner, only much less interesting. So much is telegraphed early on that any suspense found here is purely coincidental.
Worse, they completely squander the opportunity to give their version its own identity by trying something radically different, opting instead for a point-for-point rehash of its forebear with only the surface details changed. There’s a slavish air of reverence surrounding this iteration of Recall,including pointless and distracting shout-outs and cameos that serve little purpose other than to remind us how much better the original was. Even the triple-breasted prostitute shows up, in a cameo that makes little sense given the altered setting.
It’s unfortunate that a talented cast (which also includes Bryan Cranston, Bill Nighy, Jessica Biel, and Bokeem Woodbine) was squandered in another pointless remake. Do yourself a favor: avoid the deja vu and rent the original.
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