Film Review: "TOTAL RECALL"
Published: Friday, August 3, 2012
Updated: Friday, August 3, 2012 06:08
You’d think a movie about warring factions of lower class workers and high society corporate officers would have some subtext to it. You’d be wrong.
Like all Hollywood remakes, “TOTAL RECALL” (directed by Len Wiseman, of “LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD” infamy) seems to have been designed entirely upon the idea that its audience is made of idiots. It takes the central conceit of the original film (itself broken down from a Phillip K. Dick short story) and saps away all the irony and bombast that made it endearing in the first place. Instead, it surrounds it with pieces from better movies (this recalls “BLADE RUNNER” more than Verhoevan) and a faux-hip soundtrack. I’ve seen worse attempts at “hip” updates, but not often do you see one this lazy. Cast some pretty faces, erase the subtext, accentuate the cult-iconography (look, three boobs!) throw in some dubstep – and suddenly you’re modern. On to the next remake, as it were.
Colin Ferrell stars as Douglas Quaid, a working class citizen making the standard commute from Australia (the worlds last ghetto) to Britian (essentially, the world’s last country club.) He dreams of working as a secret agent, battling against his bigoted corporate overlords (represented by Bryan Cranston in a wig only Bryan Cranston could pull off,) and the REKALL facility – which allows dreams so vivid they become memories – is his ticket to exploring that. But, in a meta-twist that surely seemed tailor made for today’s audiences, we never know – is he dreaming the whole time? Can we trust what we’re seeing? Can we trust anything? And on and on and on. The best comment on this uncertainty seems unintentional – nothing here is as confusing as trying to tell Kate Beckinsale (his secret agent wife) and Jessica Biel (his working class warrior princess) apart.
Wiseman, known for the “UNDERWORLD” series, structures his do-over around a series of quick-cut fight scenes and chase sequences, edited with escalating incoherence as the film goes on. And here’s where he hits my pet peeve – I am so tired of this Movie Star-fu where a pretty boy (in this case the incredibly talented Ferrell) blocks a few strikes quickly with his forearms, showing off inimitable skill without ever shifting the soles of his feet. Why don’t movies like “HAYWIRE” and “THE RAID” shame other action filmmakers into showing combat with a sense of athleticism? It’s hard to take the viscera seriously when the people involved seem more focused on looking good than on doing damage.
If only everyone was having as much fun as Cranston, playing crazed villain Cohaagen (he truly embraces the pulp,) then maybe the film would’ve worked as well as Verhoeven’s trip to Mars. Because for a film that promises to help us remember, this is awfully easy to forget.