It's easy to say it's ironic that a movie called Total Recall is instantly forgettable. Perhaps too easy; a cheap shot. But what can I do? It's true.
There's nothing (well, OK — not much) wrong with the Total Recall remake (but of course… the filmmakers insist it's not a remake, it's based on the iconic Philip K. Dick novelette). It's well-made, finely acted, got all the plot it needs, has plenty of chase scenes and explosions as befitting a big summer movie.
Rekall, Inc. is the headquarters of dreams, turning fantasies into life-like memories. The ultimate RPG. For factory drone Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell), it's the best, least expensive escape from his workaday existence. Sure: He's happily married to a beautiful woman, Lori (Kate Beckinsale), but his life lacks excitement. Condemned to a dystopian existence (opposite to the satirical, cartoony 1990 version of the film, this one's humorless, drab and industrial), Quaid lives in era during which chemical warfare has made the Earth pretty much unlivable. It's split in two: The United Federation of Britain, where the ruling class resides, and the Colony, a melting pot of misery. Guess where Quaid lives?
Off he goes to Rekall, for the ultimate head-trip. Soon he's in another world. Quaid's a super-spy, an International Man of Mystery! Or is he? This is just an implanted storyline, isn't it? Those bullets can't really hurt him, right? As he straddles the seesaw of fantasy and reality, Quiad's wife turns on him, an old girlfriend (Jessica Biel) turns up, and an enemy (Bryan Cranston) reveals his motive. It's enough to make one's head spin.
As all this initially plays out, it's actually fun. It's completely different from the Total Recall most of us know and love, but we're comparing Verhoven to Wiseman. Couldn't be more different from one another, those two. Not to mention the scripts, and the way each filmmaker interpreted the source material. The cast is a lot different, too. Both are good. I'm down with both sets of marionettes, each for their own panache.
While competent, Total Recall 2.0 is perhaps too much so. It's pretty much a joyless, no-surprises exercise in exposition, discovery, shock, acceptance, and chase scene meets fight scene. And chase, and fight, again. And again.
For me, that's where Total Recall really lost the plot: literally. A little more than halfway through, we're no longer being told a story. We are watching a barrage of special effects, eyeballs turning to pinwheels as one chase scene bends into the next fight scene.
Total Recall isn't regrettable. It's just forgettable.
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Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson