Just when I was starting to really like Colin Farrell, he’s become the poster child for pointless remakes of great films.
Granted, his turn as a sexy-nasty vampire in the Fright Night remake was fun to watch, though that movie still didn’t live up to the original. Now we get Total Recall, with Farrell occupying the role of Douglas Quaid/Hauser, made famous by a little guy named Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Director Len Wiseman, maker of Underworld, gets nothing right. He steals the look of his film from Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, he jettisons the great humor that made the original such a twisted treat and, worst of all, he shoots the thing for a PG-13 rating. All of the wit, originality and super crazy gore is gone.
What we’re left with is a simple chase movie with Farrell failing to distinguish himself as anybody to root for. As for the great plot twists of the original that were truly mind-blowing, they’re poorly executed and dull in this film.
The movie has zero fun with the possible dual personality of Douglas Quaid, a construction worker who thinks his life is bland, even though he gets to screw Kate Beckinsale on a daily basis. In Paul Verhoeven’s original, based on the story by Philip K. Dick, Quaid was relatively happy, yet he felt a strange yearning.
Here, Quaid is just a puss that doesn’t like his job, so he goes to a place called Rekall to have fake memories injected into his brain. He takes this plunge more out of boredom than a sense for adventure.
As it turns out, Quaid’s life is still boring, even when his Rekall experience triggers a secret agent scenario that may or may not be real. While Verhoeven had a ball playing with the audience’s head in his Recall, this one just has Farrell running around a lot with Jessica Biel.
Biel and Beckinsale eventually square off, as did Sharon Stone and Rachel Ticotin in the original. While the original brawl represented a seminal moment in action movie history, this new smackdown is not at all memorable.
Beckinsale is probably the best thing in the movie, stepping into the role that sent Stone on her way to stardom. Let it be said that, on top of being a decent actress who acquits herself well playing an ambiguously evil person, she wears underwear like no other. If we can be thankful to Wiseman for anything, we can thank him for filming his wife (Beckinsale) in her underwear for this film.
Biel is required to do little more than run and look scared. The movie also wastes the presence of Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad’s Walt!) as Cohaagan, stepping into the role previously occupied by Ronny Cox. Cranston doesn’t get much of an opportunity to create anything worthwhile.
Oh, I forgot to mention the action is no longer set on Mars. Minus the element of Mars and its mutants, it’s never really spelled out exactly who Quaid is trying to free from oppression. The “oppressed” in the movie have no real identity, and we never get a sense of any peril they face besides a grumpy dictator.
There are a few sly nods to the original—a three-breasted hooker and a twist on the infamous airport security scene—and they feel unjustified. Wiseman’s film seems to do everything it can to distance itself from the original, and yet it wants to remind us of that better film’s existence. All these nods did for me is create a craving to leave the theater and watch the original on Blu-ray.
Looks like the summer movie season is already slipping into the sort of mediocrity reserved for September. Now that all the cool superhero flicks are out of the way, lame-assed remakes seem to be what’s on the menu.