Hollywood’s latest completely unnecessary remake of a movie that’s not that old is “Total Recall.” Directed by “Underworld”‘s Len Wiseman, the film mixes unimaginative action, halfhearted political allegory and a general air of “why are we doing this again?”
The film, based on the same Philip K. Dick short story as the original, subs Colin Farrell in for Arnold Schwarznegger and Kate Beckinsale and Jessica Biel into the two main female roles, in place of Sharon Stone and Rachel Ticotin, with Bryan Cranston playing the dictator and main antagonist. It also leaves out the Mars element, and any alien connotation whatsoever, although the three-breasted hooker for some reason stays.
Farrell is Doug Quaid, a factory worker in a dystopian 22nd century in which the only remaining civilizations are the former Britain and Australia, which are connected by a high speed train/elevator known as “The Fall.” There’s a totalitarian government and a resistance movement, and Doug – with some help from a futuristic firm called Rekall- must figure out how he fits into it.
Overall, it’s a pretty perfunctory and joyless affair. And while there’s some impressive eye candy here and there, the whole affair is plagued by tiresome camera tricks, from unnecessary zooms to lens flares to incongruous flashing lights. Though, give Wiseman some credit: he steals a lot more from “Star Wars”- including nearly identical spaceships, ineffectual robotic henchmen who look just like Lucas’ storm troopers, a character blurting out “it’s a trap!”- than he does from the first “Total Recall.”
The film tries to make some hay out of modern-day class conflict, but its heart clearly isn’t in doing so. In all, just about the most daring choice the movie makes is putting Jon Cho in a platinum-blond fright wig.
Besides- a train/elevator that traverses the entire Earth in 17 minutes doesn’t sound so oppressive to me- in fact, it sounds kind of awesome.
Farrell is fine, although he certainly doesn’t have the charisma of Ah-nuld. But Beckinsale, the director’s wife and “Underworld” star, gives the same sneering facial expression whenever she’s about to fight, which just gets more unintentionally hilarious each time she does it.
Now, a few words about Bryan Cranston. He’s been playing a transcendent part on Breaking Bad for five seasons now, and in that time he’s played supporting roles in about ten movies. And other than “Drive,” I’m not sure I remember a thing about any of them. Part of the problem, I think, is that after seeing Cranston portraying Heisenberg, it can only come as a letdown to see him playing a garden-variety sneering bad guy like he does here.
We’re now 0-for-3 on remakes/reboots of iconic Schwarzenegger movies from the ’80s- “Terminator: Salvation” and “Conan The Barbarian” didn’t work without Arnold either. And “Total Recall,” despite a few inspired moments, just has no reason at all to exist.