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Entertainment, Food & Beverage

Double trouble

Total Recall, the reboot of the 1990 Arnold Schwarzenegger blockbuster, stars beefcake Colin Farrell and very little else, reviews GEOFFREY EU.
The Business Times - August 3, 2012
By: Geoffrey Eu
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Double trouble I'll be back: Schwarzenegger in the original film, who made a pretty decent living out of gratuitous voilence and bad career choices, is being updated by a less larger-than-life character in the form of Hollywood wild card, Farrell (above) - PHOTOS: COLU

ARNIE'S back - only he looks a lot like Colin Farrell. Not long ago, the odds of a big-budget remake of any Arnold Schwarzenegger movie not named The Terminator might have been similar to, say, dreaming about bumping into a certain three-breasted woman on the street (On the other hand, if you've had that dream recently, consult your doctor immediately).

Schwarzenegger, a man who has made a pretty decent living out of unlikely career changes, is the once-omnipresent action star-turned-20th-century relic who is suddenly in danger of reappearing on our multiplex screens.

Fortunately, it won't be in the new version of Total Recall, which is the modern-day reincarnation of the mind-bending science-fiction flick from 1990 which, incidentally, was one of Arnie's best movies.

Twenty-two years on, that film, directed by Paul Verhoeven and featuring enough killing and destruction to satisfy any diehard fan of gratuitous violence, remains in the memory banks of many action-movie aficionados. Whether it deserves a new outing is arguable but in an age of special effects, studio magic and the never-ending search for the Next Great Blockbuster, it was probably inevitable.

Like the original, the new film, directed by Len Wiseman, is based on We Can Remember It For You Wholesale, a short story by science fiction guru Philip K Dick, whose futuristic stories about altered states and parallel universes have been given the movie treatment on numerous occasions, most famously in Blade Runner.

While comparisons in this instance are probably unfair and there can be no debate as to who possesses the better acting chops, Total Recall is one of those movies where acting is superfluous.

It's all about the action - and trying to figure out the plot. Farrell, in the role of a Douglas Quaid, a man who has been given memory implants and is struggling with what's real and what's imagined, is not an improvement on the old model.

This is due in part to the fact that this year's Total Recall is an inferior product. There is no shortage of action, of course - the entire movie is more or less one long chase scene - but like the robo-troopers who populate the film, Total Recall is strangely synthetic and lacking in emotion.

The storyline follows the experiences of Quaid in a post-apocalyptic time when earth, circa 2084, has been reduced by war to just two zones on opposite sides of the planet. Workers from The Colony (looking like a wildly futuristic version of a Chinese city) have to endure The Fall, a journey through the earth's core, during their daily commute to work in the West, which is led by the smugly evil Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston).

Quaid, who works in a factory building robot soldiers, but who is married to government agent Lori (Kate Beckinsale), is troubled by a recurring dream where he and a woman (Jessica Biel) he doesn't recognise are being chased by storm-troopers. Despite being hitched to someone who looks like Kate Beckinsale, Quaid feels he is missing something and decides to visit Rekall, a place where fantasies are realised - via fake memory implants.

Quaid opts for the secret agent experience and before you know it, he's knocked off a bunch of people and is on the run from both Cohaagen and Lori.

Quaid's mind has been seriously messed with and he struggles mightily to cope with issues of personal identity - not to mention a lot of soldiers with a chronically bad aim - but apart from an action sequence or two, viewers will likely remain unmoved.

"An illusion, no matter how convincing, is still just an illusion," says Quaid to a buddy at work. Similarly, Total Recall tries hard to sell us the illusion, but it ends up being an unconvincing, unfortunate fake instead. As Quaid might say, no thanks for the memories.

Rating: C

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