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Friday, August 3, 2012

TOTAL RECALL Review. Is It Worth Your Money?

By: MattInRC

TOTAL RECALL is a fun, action-packed summer blockbuster that's great eye candy and just smart enough for us nerds.

Make sure to come back soon. We got some information from a source who saw the unfinished film who gave us some comparisons from the unfinished film and the completed movie.

I remember watching Arnold Schwarzenegger's version of TOTAL RECALL when it came to theatres in 1990: sexy, sultry Sharon Stone, brandishing firearms against Arnold's Doug Quaid as he traveled to Mars to fulfill his destiny. The film raised interesting questions about memory without getting too involved in the discussion. Appearances by the alien named Quatto and Eddie the crazy cab driver turned hitman helped round out what I thought was a pretty good film. But in preparing for this review, rather than leaving its warm glow in my mind, I made the mistake of watching it again. Oh brother: campy and just plain cheesy, TR has not retained its cool 90's charm, rather it should be thrown in the corner with a litany of similar Arnold projects that were cool on arrival but failed to make their way into my Blu-ray collection.

Does the 2012 remake of TOTAL RECALL make for a difference experience, or is it also destined for a $5 Blu-ray discount stand? Luckily, the answer is Yes and no in that order. Action-packed and compactly written, TR is fun summer blockbuster fare with just a tad of intelligence for those who like striking up post-filmatic discussions about existence, memory, and a world rapidly deterioration into a giant police state.

Collin Ferrell plays Doug Quaid, a factory worker whose reoccurring dreams of being pursued by police with a strange gun-toting woman (Jessica Biel, Blade Trinity) are causing him to lose sleep. His is a world much like everyone else living in The Colony, one of only two post-apocalyptic locations on the planet not devastated by a deadly chemical war. The Colony (located in Australia but looking a lot like Japan) and the Federation of New Britain are connected by a massive transport shuttle, which the lower-class Colony workers use to travel to their factory jobs in New Brtiain. This sort of class warfare relegates The Colony to a life of hard times while New Brtiain enjoys a sunnier (and more affluent) disposition. Quaid's wife Lori (Kate Beckinsdale, Underworld series) is worried about her husband's growing sleep disorder, but is more concerned about the growing attacks by a terrorist organization headed by the enigmatic Matthias (Bill Nighy, Valkyrie), and how that will impact her job as a peacekeeper.

Nevertheless, Quaid wants answers about his dreams, and travels to the city's Vice District, where every pleasure is met for the right price (cue three-breasted hooker from the original film). Here, he travels to Rekall, a facility that imprints memories into your consciousness, giving the illusion that the patient has actually lived them. Unfortunately, Quaid seems to already have these memories, and is soon engulfed in a battle with peace officers and their robotic counterparts, New Britain's Chancellor Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston,Breaking Bad), and Lori who proves to be a deadly assassin with a taste for killing Quaid. WIth no idea how he gained these secret skills in the first place, Quaid must unravel the mystery of his very existance, while keeping Cohaagen from invading The Colony to repopulate it with his people.

The film is directed by Len Wiseman (Underworld series), who richly creates a futuristic world of floating cars and cities interspersed with a police state that doesn't seem too far away from reality. A lot of this film reminds me of the Ridley Scott classic Blade Runner, with its constant rainfall, The Colony's Asian motif, and the overall gritty/clean environment that's been a mainstay of popular science fiction. Every element is upgraded from the original TR, from casting and story to the film's musical score by Harry Gregson-Williams (The Town), which will remind audiences of Daft Punk's brilliant Tron: Legacy soundscape. Ferrell plays a terrific mix of scared determination, giving us tenderness when needed but not afraid to bust out the whoopin' stick on Lori, the police, or anyone who gets in his way. He and Biel have good chemistry, and Biel's pouty lips and tough girl looks make her fun to watch. But, it's the performance of the feisty and sizzling Beckinsdale that will win over audiences. She's Underworld's Selene in every way, but adds a terrific dry sense of humor once Quaid is on the run, courtesy of writers Kurt Wimmer and Mark Bomback. Beckinsdale steals every scene she's in, and it's not just because of the underwear scene at the film's beginning. Cranston is servicable as the bad guy, as is fellow stooge Bokeem Woodbine (Ray), whose death scene is one of the film's best. And while the end was not the riveting head-scratcher of Inception, it's our trio of actors whose violent and reoccurring meetings that make this film a winner.

There's some obvious plot holes and WTF moments, such as the Asian-looking The Colony stuck in Australia and an all-too-early exit for Nighy, but there's also plenty to like about this summer blockbuster. Total Recall reminds us that sometimes remakes can be done better, provided that the right amount of credit is given to the original but still forges new ground. In that way, count Total Recall a success.

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