First off I must confess, I can barely remember the original Total Recall from the 90s. I watched the remake partly because I was intrigued by the sci-fi premise, but mostly out of my intense love for Kate Beckinsale – one of the most gorgeous actresses in Hollywood today and one of the few women who can pull off an action heroine (or in this case super-villainess) convincingly. Apparently a lot of people still have fond memories of the Schwarzenegger mess and it’s become a sort of cult favorite over the years. Thankfully, this remake probably won’t even be remembered come Christmas time.
The problem with Total Recall is that it doesn’t bring anything new to the table. It’s not really groundbreaking in any way, nor is it particularly horrible. In fact, it commits the gravest offense of all: it’s painfully bland. The set design is uninspired, practically hell-bent on ripping off every other dystopian film from the past two decades, and the action is nothing more than serviceable. After being spoiled by The Dark Knight Rises and Christopher Nolan’s superb employment of practical effects, it’s hard to get excited over a surplus of CGI landscapes and stunts. While I was never bored, I was also never really engaged with the proceedings as there’s really only so much Collin Farrell jumping off rooftops that one can take. A little variety here and there (the hoverdrone police chase was an interesting attempt at mixing things up a bit) and some more time spent on developing the characters would have done the movie a world of good.
Speaking of Farrell, I’m unsure how I feel about him as a lead. He does have some level of charm I guess, but he often seems completely devoid of emotion, or a personality for that matter. He tends to revert back to that same puzzled look every once in a while and it can get quite grating. Jessica Biel doesn’t fare much better as she’s really not the most talented starlet around. Not that the movie gives her much to do but she was especially forgettable, not to mention completely overshadowed by Miss Beckinsale.
Speaking of Kate, who is fortunately married to the film’s director Len Wiseman in yet another collaboration, she undoubtedly makes the film. It’s been a while since we’ve had such an alluring butt- kicker on screen and she was just spectacular. And of course her husband undeniably knows her best angles because she looks pretty damn perfect in practically every single frame. Who knew you could hunt down the world’s most accomplished spy while looking like you just walked off a L’Oreal commercial? Plus, Wiseman was kind enough to supply Beckinsale with the film’s only successful one-liners and action sequences.
And finally, special mention has to go Bryan Cranston who is awkwardly utilized as the film’s big bad (when Kate isn’t on screen that is.) It feels like he was asked to play Hal from Malcolm In The Middle only as an outright villain and it’s so very bizarre. Perhaps I’ve just pigeonholed him too much (I haven’t seen Breaking Bad after all).
Ultimately, Total Recall is a disposable action flick that doesn’t offer anything particularly different this blockbuster season. If you’re a fan of Kate Beckinsale however, this comes highly recommended. Otherwise, let The Dark Knight Rises be your summer spectacle.