Normally in the case of the famed ‘remake’ there is usually some room to put aside original flick stigma and focus on the updated outing as a film unto itself. Unfortunately the 2012 version of "Total Recall" plays so close to the chest on all copycat accounts that it’s hard to make such distinctions. In fact the new Len Wiseman helmed upgrade takes a ton of material from the five-star Paul Verhoeven classic – except everything that made it great.
If you know either the Philip K. Dick short story or the Verhoeven flick you know the drill – everyman Doug Quaid has a nice wife and a decent job but he dreams of more. He heads on down to Rekall, a company that implants fake memories of lives folks would like to have. But when Quaid finds that his memory may have already been erased, everyone is double crossing him and nothing in his life is as it seems it asks the question – is it real or is it recall?
Sadly even with the fascinating story and very liberal borrowing from the original script by geniuses like Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett this one just can’t keep the interest beyond a ‘nothing else is on’ mentality. What I remember most about the original was things like the overtly sexual nature by the European Verhoeven, the groundbreaking effects by "The Thing" maestro Rob Bottin and the inspired casting. (Hands down – nobody does beauty and bitch better then Sharon Stone!) Taking the same elements this time around proves not quite as memorable. The whole sexual tension between lead man Colin Farrell (is he the remake guy or what?!) and Kate Beckinsale is totally non-existent, meaning the lead up before the wife being bitchy is null and void (is Wiseman the jealous type or something?!) and leaves the normally hot and bothered "Underworld" star playing a bitter and dull one-note wonder. (Plus she’s no Michael Ironside in the bad guy department!) Farrell and Jessica Biel don't fare much better with more dough-eyed looks then cool chemistry – Farrell and Rekall salesman John 'Harold & Kumar' Cho had more heat for crying out loud. The effect and visual style may have impressed Farrell and new Cohaagen Bryan Cranston to do the flick, but it’s not winning any Oscars. With a barrage of crappy CGI eye candy that is utterly uninspired (are flying cars and face shifting really the best this team came up with?!), the brilliant yet dated work of Rob Bottin suddenly doesn't look so old school. (And the homage to the “two weeks” lady doesn't help us move on Len – it makes us miss her and her iconic mechanical head!)
Watching this sub-par "Total Recall" reminded me of why a fabulous filmmaker like Paul Verhoeven left the insipid Hollywood halls to go back home. (And thank God he did – "Black Book" was his best yet!) The movie making capital prides itself on seeking out new, fresh, talented and visionary filmmakers and then sanitizing their wares to what sells. I could be way off on this one, but I hope not. For if Len Wiseman is indeed the Paul Verhoeven of his generation, maybe five star films are truly a thing of the past.
"TOTAL RECALL" OPENS IN THEATERS EVERYWHERE AUGUST 3 FROM COLUMBIA PICTURES.
Title: "Total Recall"
Cast: Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel
Director: Len Wiseman
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Release Company: Columbia Pictures