"Total Recall" Rated PG-13. C+
In what alternate universe is Colin Farrell a stand-in for Arnold Schwarzenegger?
Of course the R-rated 1990 Paul Verhoeven film "Total Recall" had its own credibility issues, since it asked us to believe Schwarzenegger was a future factory worker named Doug Quaid (the Austrian-born actor with the famous accent has trouble saying the name).
In this new PG-13 "Total Recall," buff bantamweight Irishman Farrell is Quaid, a factory-working drone living happily with the notably beautiful and more successful wife Lori (Kate Beckinsale), who is a police officer of some sort. Doug, however, is having a recurring dream involving a gunfight with heavily armed "synthetics," i.e. robots resembling "Star Wars" Imperial Storm Troopers that he assembles at work, and a female fellow fighter (Jessica Biel), who is decidedly not his wife.
Captions tell us that by the end of the 21st century global warfare has rendered most of the planet uninhabitable, except for the United Federation of Britain and the Colony, which appears to be Australia (Mars is off the table here) and where everyone has an American accent. The two places are connected by a tunnel. A Colony-based rebellion is going on. Colony lowlifes like Doug must travel the length of the planet twice a day to work in the UFB. Life is an endless Sisyphus-like slog.
Relief is offered by Rekall, a service offering to implant any memories, except how to spell apparently. Doug, an Ian Fleming buff, asks to be made a secret agent. Uh-oh, it seems he really was one. Cue the gun-blazing "sentries" and their "synthetics."
Both "Total Recall" films were adaptations of Philip K. Dick's 1966 short story "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale." Dick was the modern master of a kind of science fiction in which reality itself was in the hands of an evil ruling class, and everything we believed was a probable lie. Sound familiar?
This is why films based on his works -- "Blade Runner," "Minority Report" and even "Total Recall" -- are so resonant. Unfortunately, after tantalizing us with a somewhat better film than the first one for about 45 minutes, this spanking new "Total Recall" devolves into a series of cliched chase-scene shoot-'em-ups in which thousands of rounds are fired at Doug, CGI Cheez Whiz and scenes lifted from such noteworthy sci-fi efforts as "Minority Report," "The Matrix" and "I, Robot." As so-called rebel leader Matthias and UFB strongman Cohaagen, Bill Nighy and Bryan Cranston (in a ridiculous wig) have the unenviable task of filling empty suits. Beckinsale is good as the butt-kicking nightmare "wife." Biel also handles the action scenes with aplomb. But Farrell seems a lot less likely to be a rebel leader superspy than Arnold. Director Len Wiseman, who is married to Beckinsale and directs her in those blue-tinted "Underworld" movies, and writers Kurt Wimmer ("Salt") and Mark Bomback ("Unstoppable") bring little to Dick's tale, except an amusing variation of the expression "talk to the hand." Perhaps they were all too busy lifting images from "Blade Runner."
("Total Recall" contains endless gun violence and fiery explosions, brief nudity, profanity and a sexually suggestive scene, and yet it's still rated PG-13!)
(c)2012 the Boston Herald
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