At the Movies - Total Recall review

Colin Farrell as Douglas Quaid in Total Recall.
Colin Farrell as Douglas Quaid in Total Recall.

Paul Verhoeven’s ‘Total Recall’ was released in July 1990; since that time mankind has evolved, progressed and developed.

The World Wide Web (www.) was also invented in 1990 and in the 22 years that have followed man witnessed the invention of the Pentium Processor (1993), Global Positioning System (G.P.S. – 1993) and the iPod (2001).

Kate Beckinsale stars in Columbia Pictures' action thriller TOTAL RECALL.

Kate Beckinsale stars in Columbia Pictures' action thriller TOTAL RECALL.

The aforementioned are but a few of the improvements made by man since Verhoeven’s movie was released but nevertheless, they prove that things have been ticking over nicely; I thought I could apply the same logic to Len Wiseman’s 2012 ‘Total Recall’.

With Colin Farrell (‘Intermission’ ‘In Bruges’ and ‘Miami Vice’) as Douglas Quaid it was sure to be a step-up from Verhoeven’s film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. It wasn’t.

Special effects would almost certainly help Wiseman make the movie his own and banish Verhoeven’s to the past forever. They didn’t.

The fact that the entire premise of the movie is based on a short story by sci-fi author Philip K. Dick meant that the donkey work was already done for Wiseman et al and they could concentrate on the action and make things interesting. It most certainly did not.

Kate Beckinsale plays Quaid’s wife Lori but unlike the role made famous by Sharon Stone in 1990, she has a more significant part to play.

Beckinsale is Wiseman’s wife and although her performance is one of the few positives, there are times she looks more like a gun wielding L’Oréal model than she does top ranking secret agent.

Beckinsale does overshadow the less than adequate Jessica Biel who plays Quaid’s true love, Melina.

Warning signs could be seen before this film even started.

Sign number one. ‘Total Recall’ is directed by Len Wiseman. This is the same director responsible for such cinematic disasters as ‘Die Hard 4.0’, ‘Underworld’ and ‘Underworld: Evolution’. If these movies had been race horses, they would almost certainly have been put down years ago.

If Wiseman at the helm wasn’t enough to make you suspicious then, it gets worse.

The screenplay for the 2012 reboot is by Mark Bomback and Kurt Wimmer, who between them are responsible for some of the worst films of the last 10 years (‘Law Abiding Citizen’, ‘Ultraviolet’, ‘Die Hard 4.0’ and ‘Deception’, which I have to add, was so bad, I’d forgotten I’d seen until someone reminded me).

I was saddled with a sense of foreboding but my good Christian upbringing made me give ‘Total Recall’ the benefit of the doubt; I was prepared to give it a chance but the benefit and the doubt were both well and truly dead and buried within the first 20 minutes – I almost fell asleep.

Wiseman, like Verhoeven before him, sticks closely to Philip K. Dick’s short story, ‘We Can Remember It For You Wholesale’ but the nuances he does introduce fall flat on their face and some of the casting would make giving the role of Don Corleone to Shirley Temple seem an inspired choice.

First to fall foul of being totally miscast is Bryan Cranston (‘Malcolm in the Middle’, ‘Drive’ and ‘Little Miss Sunshine’).

Cranston plays the power hungry and corrupt Chancellor Cohaagen; when he does eventually appear onscreen he looks more like a rather over-enthusiastic banker who’s had one too many glasses of vino blanco.

But like the smell of a decaying animal, the film gets worse.

Two words: Bill Nighy.

Nighy (‘Love Actually’, ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’ and ‘Sean of the Dead’) plays rebel leader Matthias but his screen time is so brief that it makes a Stan Lee cameo look like a starring role.

Miscasting and brevity aside, ‘Total Recall’ fails on several more levels.

The special effects are average, the acting is mediocre and some of the action scenes are so boring that you’ll have wished you’d brought a pillow.

There are references to Verhoeven’s throughout, which helps to make the movie a little more bearable but there’s no getting away from the fact that poor casting, a poor script and the sense of opportunity missed make Wiseman’s film feel very unsatisfying.

The sooner this ‘Total Recall’ is forgotten forever, the better.

Verdict: 1/5 - The opportunity was lost by Wiseman to make ‘Total Recall’ his own and instead what we are left with is a contrived, one dimensional movie that lacks any degree of satisfaction. Some of the casting is questionable to say the least and the script is so boring that you’ll struggle to keep your eyes open. Beckinsale and Farrell are slightly above average but Cranston and Nighy are completely out of place. And, yes, there’s a woman with three breasts.