If memories can be manufactured and bought, then how can we ever know what is truly real? This theme of the Philip K. Dick story "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale" was virtually ignored in the first movie Total Recall -- and also given short shrift in the the new Total Recall. While the remake skips some of the cheesiness that comes with being an Arnold Schwarzenegger action movie, like its predecessor the new movie skips thoughtfulness for action.

It's the end of the 21st century, and the world is in bad shape. After massive chemical wars, there are only two main populated areas on Earth: the technologically advanced United Federation of Britain, led by Chancellor Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston), and the slumlike Colony. Workers travel from the Colony to the UFB through the Fall, a transport device that travels through the Earth. Rebel leader Matthias (Bill Nighy) believes the UFB takes advantage of the citizens of the Colony ("The Fall enslaves us all"), while Cohaagen blames the rebellion for terrorist attacks in the UFB. There are robotic policemen and massive overcrowding. Welcome ot the future, folks!

Doug Quaid (Colin Farrell) is a simple factory worker who travels from the Colony to the UFB to work at a mindless, dead-end job. His wife Lori (Kate Beckinsale) tries to reassure him life is good for them, but Doug feels unsatisfied. He also has a recurring dream of being captured after rescuing a beautiful woman. Not sleeping and not happy, Doug goes to Rekall, a company that can implant memories in people. And Doug decides to get the memory of being a secret agent.

Unfortunately, before the process can be completed, Rekall says he already has memories of being a spy, and government troops come in guns blazing -- and Doug kills them all. Doug returns home -- where Lori now tries to kill him with martial arts and lots of bullets. Doug finds clues from himself saying that he was a resistance agent who was given a false identity by the government. And Melina (Jessica Biel), the woman Doug dreamed of, turns up as a fellow resistance agent who used to have a relationship with Doug.

This Total Recall scales back much of the original movie (no Mars, yes three-breasted hooker) but still skips most of the intriguing questions of identity and memory ("If I'm not me, than who the hell am I?") to focus instead on gunfights, (future) car chases, and fist fights. The cast have all done better work elsewhere, but here they seem very superficial, whether it's Farrell's continually-confused everyman-turned-action-hero or Cranston's evil politician. (The fun exception is Kate Beckinsale, who takes the "vindictive wife" to a whole new level as she pursues Doug like a bat out of hell.) Anyone who saw the first film knows 95% of what will happen in this one; anyone who didn't will get a few good ideas and a whole lot of noise and action. Total Recall is a total rehash -- and substantially less than entertaining.

Overall grade: D+
Reviewed by James Lynch

1 comment:

Chad Cloman said...

I really enjoyed the original movie. Why they needed to do a remake is beyond me.