"You're going to to wish you had three hands."
A remake of the highest unimportance, TOTAL RECALL returns us to the desecrated world first introduced by Paul Verhoeven in 1990. Hollywood continues to carry the mindset that recycled ideas are the way to go, and thanks to audiences (see: me), these tiring endeavors will continue to be made.
Colin Farrell is Douglas Quaid--substituting for Arnold Schwarzenegger--a lowly factory worker, building synthetic police officers. Thanks to some expository pre-film text, we're told Earth has been decimated by a global chemical war. Two superpowers have emerged: the United Federation of Britain (UFB), and the less shiny moniker, The Colony (formerly Australia). RECALL attempts to place a sense of economic inequality between the two civilizations, but many times, the UFB looks just as shitty, and people are just as unhappy. Quaid lives in The Colony with his wife, Lori (Kate Beckinsale), and commutes on "The Fall", a colossal elevator that travels through the ground, yup, right past the Earth's core*, to get to work each morning.
*I'm usually pretty lenient about the rules (or lack thereof) of science fiction films. There's flying cars, holograms that talk back to you, electric rope-coil guns. I can't forgive driving by the core, though. Forget for a minute the amount of gravity involved, making you fall thousands and thousands of miles per hour; I'd be more worried about the temperature (9,800˚F at the center). Sure, I suppose there could be the invention of some sort of super metal that protects all the travelers on their journey, but at one point, Doug, Lori and others are CLIMBING OUTSIDE of The Fall, whilst on its journey.
Apart from the majority of the planet being inhospitable due to the poison floating around, the world is continually ravaged by the efforts of Matthias (a hugely wasted Bil Nighy), a freedom fighter of sorts. He and his people are in a constant struggle, attempting a never-ending uprising against Chancellor Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston), the ruler of the UFB.
If you've seen the original TOTAL RECALL you'll follow right along quite easily. Remove Mars and the various mutants and aliens from the equation and the story is almost a mirror image. Except bad. Quaid hates his life, pines to Lori, complains to his friend Harry, then heads to Rekall to "remember" a better life. Rekall is a vacation getaway for those perhaps fearful of travel. Pay some money, and they implant memories directly into your brain. Becoming a rock star, the President, anything is possible. Quaid selects secret agent, but before the injection can occur, alarms blare, and Rekall is swarmed by the authorities. Instincts and newly found martial arts allow Quaid to escape, making him wonder where these previously known abilities came from, and making me wonder what I was still doing in the theatre.
Farrell is good in the film. He does frantic well, perfect for a character unsure of his past. He experiences a dream at the beginning of the film, showing an attempted escape from a nondescript facility. With him during the sequence is Jessica Biel, Melina we learn later. She's either a lover or the enemy, because Quaid is either part of the uprising, or a mole in Cohaagen's service. Biel is largely forgettable--you could have replaced her with any beautiful face--while Beckinsale has her moments. Though, I'd love to see a return to her BROKEDOWN PALACE and SNOW ANGEL days, long before being inundated with countless scripts laden with bullets and leather pants.
RECALL is the worst kind of rehashing. One that only takes the best part of the original without adding anything particularly new or exciting to the project. Verhoeven's vision was grand and spectacular, touching on life on other planets. Director Len Wiseman's (of the UNDERWORLD series fame) on the other hand feels small. His version proposes a climactic overthrowing of The Colony by Cohaagen's robotic minions. That's it. And, not even a woman with three boobs can make it worthwhile.