"TOTAL RECALL" — ★★ — Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, Bryan Cranston, John Cho, Bokeem Woodbine, Bill Nighy; PG-13 (intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, some sexual content, brief nudity, and language); in general release
The almost non-stop chase of the new "Total Recall" isn't enough, by itself, to make one forget the earlier take on this Philip K. Dick story back in the last century. And for all the effects, the action and the showcase performance provided for his wife, Kate Beckinsale, "Underworld" Spandex salesman Len Wiseman never lets us forget that he's no Paul Verhoeven, who directed the original film.
But he does have Beckinsale, whose years of vampire pictures have taught her how to lean into the camera, how to keep her mop of hair tossed over one scowling eye, just the right level of sneer. Here, she's the villain, the adoring wife Doug Quaid (Colin Farrell) thinks he's been waking up to these past seven years. And she's terrific.
We're 100 years in the future. Memories can be invented, introduced, changed, bought and sold.
"We Can Remember It For You Wholesale" was the title of the story this is based on. And the folks at Rekall are all about tinkering with your memory, your reality.
"Tell us your fantasy, we'll give you the memory," a Rekall guru (John Cho) purrs. "What is life but our brain's perception of it?"
Exactly. It's a measure of this movie's mediocrity that the many credited screenwriters and the director cannot make more of that possibility. We never are made to doubt Doug's reality, any more than he does.
Doug has been waking up with Lori (Beckinsale), but dreaming of Melina (Jessica Biel). And it turns out, those dreams are his real past.
Humanity has barely survived a chemical world war and we're living in two enclaves — Euromerica and New Shanghai. And we're living in layers, stacked up from the surface, where futuristic Mini Coopers and Fiats remain, to way up in the sky, where futuristic hover-cars and rotor-less helicopters roam.
And keeping the peace — "Synthetic Federal Police," who take their fashion cues from the armored Storm Troopers of "Star Wars."
It's a "Blade Runner" world of dark and rain, a "Fifth Element" future of stacked up "levels" of humanity and traffic. No doubt about it, there's a lot to take in, visually, during the endless chase that runs Doug through skylights, awnings, crowded streets, subway cars and this vast shuttle that shoots people through the center of the Earth from Britain to Australia. So, kudos where they're due — to production designer Patrick Tatopolous.
But it adds nothing to this "Recall," which is not quite totally different from the last "Recall" — yes, a three-breasted woman shows up, no, we don't travel to Mars — to note that the last "Recall" wasn't all that. This one isn't either.
"Total Recall" is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, some sexual content, brief nudity, and language; running time: 116 minutes.
Points for parents
Violence: This is a chase film where the antagonist wants the protagonist dead, so there is a good bit of violence right from the start. This includes close hand-to-hand combat, guns and explosives, and using guns as blunt objects.
Language: There is some profanity but not really anything that goes to excess. There is one use of the F-word.
Nudity/sensuality: A woman does reveal her chest, but it is clearly not real. The same gag was used in the Schwarzenegger version. Kate Beckinsale is in bed in sleepwear, and she and Colin Farrell kiss in bed.
Drinking/drugs: One man takes a beer from his refrigerator. He then decides to go to a bar. Upon exiting the bar, his friend says he probably drank too much. Memories are inserted into the brain via a solution, so there are needles being stuck into people. "Total Recall" is a fun film. Still, it probably is better suited for a 15–plus audience, due to the violence and the nudity, than for a 13-plus crowd. There is only the one quick scene of nudity, which will surprise viewers. If you think you can deal with it, then you will enjoy the rest of the film. The story is a bit different — and better — than the previous version.
— Shawn O'Neill