by Steve Habrat
Have you ever watched someone play a video game? It’s fun for about ten minutes and then it just becomes mind numbing, filling you with the urge to snatch the controller out of player one’s hands just so you can keep from nodding off. That is how I felt while watching Len Wiseman’s Total Recall, the CGI heavy remake of director Paul Verhoeven’s 1990 original of the same name. Wiseman’s Total Recall is the type of action film that I thought Hollywood had given up on. It is spectacularly stupid and composed of never-ending action scenes that all begin to run together after about twenty minutes. I kept expecting to see someone like Dolph Lundgren or Jean-Cluade Van Damme swoop in for a cameo and maybe throw a punch or two Colin Farrell’s way. It is clear that video game style action took top priority in Total Recall and it doesn’t appear that Wiseman has any shame over it. Yes, Total Recall is the worst movie of the summer and I hardly think that anything will top it (well, except maybe The Expendables 2 but even the first one had the sense to stop and wink at itself). The major victim here is the plotline, which is subjected to one explosion, punch, kick, bullet, and knife after another. By the time we reach the overblown climax, the storyline is in ruin with no hope of putting itself back together. It may be pretty rank on the big screen, but if Total Recall were converted into an XBOX 360 or PS3 game, I think this would run off with game of the year.
Total Recall begins by explaining that a good majority of Earth has been wiped out by chemical warfare. The planet has been divided into two superpowers: The United Federation of Britain and The Colony. “The Fall”, a gigantic gravity elevator that rockets through the Earth’s core, connects the two superpowers and allows the survivors to travel back and forth. Factory worker Douglas Quaid (Played by Colin Farrell) shacks up in The Colony with his lovely wife Lori (Played by Kate Beckinsale), the two living a relatively normal life. It turns out that Doug has been suffering from a recurring nightmare every single night, a nightmare that is causing him to loose sleep. Fed up with this strange dream, Doug seeks out Rekall, a swanky lounge in a sketchy part of town that implants artificial memories. Shortly after the procedure begins, a SWAT team storms Rekall, guns down all the employees, and attempts to arrest Doug. To his surprise, Doug is able to fight off the SWAT team and finds himself on the run from Lori, who now claims to be an undercover UFB agent who has been pretending to be his wife. Desperate to figure out why Lori and the police are after him, Doug begins trying to figure out if all of this is real or if it is Rekall. His desperate search connects him to a mysterious resistance fighter named Melina (Played by Jessica Biel), the resistance leader Matthias (Played by Billy Nighy), and the sinister UFB Chancellor Vilos Cohaagen (Played by Bryan Cranston).
Don’t be fooled by the lengthy plot description, as Total Recall is mostly compiled of one long chase scene with countless gunfights thrown in to switch things up. When the film isn’t providing computerized eye candy, it is giving us flesh and blood eye candy in its three main leads. Total Recall exists to look good and nothing more and that is precisely its crime against cinema. There is not rhyme or reason why this film even exists other than to act as an exercise for the special effects department. To make things worse, screenwriters Kurt Wimmer and Mark Bomback throw characters into the action that are there simply to act as checkpoints within the story. Farrell’s Quaid bumps into them, they explain what the hell is going on, and then they get killed. Their death gets Quaid all frazzled, a fight scene erupts between robot police officers and Quaid, and Quaid escapes with a minor scratch on his face. This is the formula that Total Recall uses and it doesn’t break from it once. And while the action is all perfectly executed, coherent, and spiffy, that still doesn’t hide the fact that it is reckless, monotonous, and nonsensical. If half the action scenes were trimmed from the film, I swear that this thing would only be about twenty minutes long. I kid you not.
Then we have all the pretty faces that populate Total Recall. Farrell is the only one who shows up to do any real acting and it is a shame because this is a total waste of his time. The script asks him to look confused as he maneuvers through nonstop explosions and gunfire that practically shatters your eardrums. Anytime he tries to add something resembling depth to his character (believe me, he IS capable of it), Wiseman pulls the camera away and aims it at Beckinsale, who also happens to be his wife. Beckinsale is basically asked to walk fast towards Farrell, who scampers away and then fights a few police officers. She basically made millions to walk fast and look good doing it (seriously). Her character is a gigantic joke, a nuisance to instigate one destructive action sequence after another. Rounding out this smoking hot trio is Biel as Melina, a character that really serves no purpose other than to explain the plot to us. Half the time, I forgot she was even there because she adds nothing substantial to this mess of a movie. Hey, at least she looks good holding a machine gun and that has to count for something.
Then we have the supporting players, who all seem to have showed up for the paycheck and then mentally checked out. Cranston is familiar evil as Cohaagen, the real bad guy who is looking to expand his empire in the most brutal way possible. Cranston may be a badass on television’s Breaking Bad but I hardly see him holding his own in a fistfight with the muscular Farrell, who manhandles man and robot alike. He hams it up next to Nighy, who seems downright embarrassed to be seen in this shitstorm. He is probably extremely grateful that we hear about his character more than we actually see him. Harold & Kumar’s John Cho drops by to play the blonde haired Bob McClane, a rep for Rekall that doesn’t last ten minutes once the bullets tear through the place. Bokeem Woodbine is present to deliver cringe-inducing dialogue as Harry, Quaid’s best buddy who strictly warns him to stay far away from Rekall. If I were Woodbine, I would have fired my agent once I saw the finished product. And what would Total Recall be without that famous three-breasted prostitute who directs Doug to that mysterious Rekall place. Oh yes, she is here and played by the lovely Kaitlyn Leeb, who grins through her whole scene. You know things are bad when Leeb only delivers three lines but manages to steal any entire movie. She is the most interesting character here.
You’d think that there would be at least one scene in Total Recall that would have justified the ten bucks that I spent on it but I honestly can’t think of one aspect I enjoyed. I guess if I had to pick something, I’d say that the special effects were pretty impressive and I got a good laugh out of the three-breasted prostitute but that still doesn’t quite make up for it. Other than that, I fought through yawns and a mild headache as things went from pretty bad to extremely awful. I also felt bad for Farrell, who I’m sure has to be kicking himself right now for agreeing to do this. Take it from me, folks, if your friends, boyfriend, girlfriend, mom, dad, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, cousin, or whoever else you see movies with suggests seeing Total Recall, calmly say that you aren’t interested in it and suggest going to see The Amazing Spider-Man or The Dark Knight Rises again. You’ll thank me later. No one should have to endure the disaster that is Total Recall.