Just when I was starting to really like Colin Farrell, he became the poster child for pointless remakes of great films.
Granted, his turn as a sexy-nasty vampire in the Fright Night remake was fun to watch, but that movie still didn't live up to the original. Now we get Total Recall, with Farrell occupying the role of Douglas Quaid/Hauser, made famous by a guy named Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Director Len Wiseman, maker of Underworld, gets nothing right. He steals the look from Ridley Scott's Blade Runner; he jettisons the humor that made the original such a twisted treat; and, worst of all, he shoots the thing for a PG-13 rating. All of the wit, originality and super-crazy gore are gone. What we are left with is a simple chase movie, with Farrell failing to distinguish himself. As for the mind-blowing plot twists of the original, they are poorly executed and dull here.
The movie has zero fun with the possible dual personality of Douglas Quaid, a construction worker who thinks his life is bland, even though he gets to screw Kate Beckinsale on a daily basis. In director Paul Verhoeven's original (based on a story by Philip K. Dick), Quaid was relatively happy, yet he felt a strange yearning.
Here, Quaid is just a puss who doesn't really like his job, so he goes to a place called Rekall to have fake memories injected into his brain. He takes this plunge more out of boredom than a desire for adventure.
As it turns out, Quaid's life is still boring, even when his Rekall experience triggers a secret-agent scenario that may or may not be real. While Verhoeven had a great time playing with the audience's head in his Recall, this just has Farrell running around a lot with Jessica Biel.
Biel and Beckinsale eventually square off, as did Sharon Stone and Rachel Ticotin in the original. While the original brawl represented a seminal moment in action-movie history, this new smackdown is not at all memorable
Beckinsale is the best thing in the movie, stepping into the role that sent Stone on her way to stardom. Let it be said that, on top of being a decent actress who acquits herself well as she plays an ambiguously evil person, she wears underwear like no other. If we can be thankful to Wiseman for anything, it's for filming his wife in her underwear for this film.
Biel is required to do little more than run and look scared. The movie also wastes the presence of Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad's Walt!) as Cohaagen, a role previously occupied by Ronny Cox. Cranston doesn't get much of an opportunity to create anything worthwhile.
Also: The action is no longer set on Mars. Minus the element of Mars and its mutants, the "oppressed" in the movie have no real identity, and we never get a sense of any peril they are facing, besides a grumpy dictator.
There are a few sly nods to the original (a three-breasted hooker and a twist on the infamous airport-security scene), but they feel unjustified. Wiseman's film seems to be doing everything it can to distance itself from the original, yet it wants to remind us of the better film's existence. All these nods did is make me want to leave the theater and watch the original on Blu-ray.
It looks like the summer-movie season is already slipping into the sort of mediocrity normally reserved for September. Now that all of the cool superhero flicks are out of the way, lame-ass remakes dominate the menu.