As Dylan mentioned in this week’s TGITDNMAR, the remake of Total Recall is upon us. Fans of Breaking Bad may be excited to see Bryan Cranston chew up the scenery as Cohaagen, but his Bad costar Dean Norris deserves props for puffing up to Schwarzenegger’s Quaid as the slough-faced mutant, Tony. I’m excited to see the remake, but I have no doubt that it will be inferior to the old ‘Ahnuld’ version. Wiseman’s PG-13, for-the-masses fare can’t possibly match Verhoeven’s hard-R ballbuster, but it’ll be interesting to see his spin on the Philip K. Dick short story, We Can Remember It for You Wholesale.
For weeks, mild-mannered construction worker Douglas Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger) awakes from fitful dreams where he and an alluring, dark-haired woman nearly die on Mars. His wife, Lori (Sharon Stone), isn’t too happy about his dreams, and urges him to stop watching news stories about Kuato (Marshall Bell) and his freedom brigade who continue to terrorize the mining operations. Luckily, the company, Rekall, can satisfy the curiosity his wife has squashed by implanting memories of the Red Planet directly into his brain without him even leaving the city. However, when the switch is flipped, Quaid’s secret-agent fantasy becomes a reality. Quaid is really working with the Martian resistance to uncover the truth behind a mysterious alien artifact. Or is he a double agent working for the governor of Mars, Vilos Cohaagen (Ronny Cox), to squelch the resistance? Or is he a mild-mannered construction worker suffering from a schizoid embolism in the chair at the Rekall facility?
Though it’s been twenty-two years since its release the visual effects, sorry, the Academy-Award-winning visual effects created by Rob Bottin and his team still look amazing! The mutants’ prostheses, Arnold’s travel disguise, the swollen, oxygen-deprived faces, and the disgustingly awesome Kuato may give off a slightly inhuman sheen at times, but compared to other films’ effects from this period, they hold up impressively. Nearly as impressive is some of the future tech such as wall panels that turn into televisions with the touch of a hand, color-changing fingernails, and the automated Johnny Cabs. Not as impressive are subway cars fitted with bulky tube televisions, video phones that take up half a desk, and the blockiest cars to ever roll off the line. Still, director Paul Verhoeven deserves praise for using practically no CGI effects in a sci-fi film that may have been the worse for it.
Verhoeven’s Total Recall is blood-laden and action packed. Blood spews as arms are severed and the meek Quaid quickly becomes comfortable with snapping necks, mowing down guards by the dozen, and using dead bystanders as shields. Guns and explosions blaze every few minutes. Given that guards’ protective vests and the city’s protective dome seemed exceptionally vulnerable to bullets and explosions, you’d think there wouldn’t have been so many guns allowed on Mars. But I digress.
As per usual Arnold style, it’s non-stop skull-cracking and wise-cracking. He’s up against the formidable, relentless Richter, played fiercely by Michael Ironside and Cohaagen who’s portrayed as one tough damned cookie thanks to Ronny Cox. Audiences may come to see Arnold dish out punishment, but the standout battle is between Lori and Melina (Rachel Ticotin); badass enough to make Heather’s Top Ten Girl Vs. Girl Fights.
Recall‘s much needed plot exposition is many times provided in the midst of these shoot-outs and chases. Who needs time to soak up the story when there’s carnage to experience? Even during this barrage on the senses, the considerably complex plot is clearly detailed for the audience.
Verhoeven’s Total Recall isn’t quite perfect; stone walls do ‘wobble’ when Arnold’s bulk smashes against them. Despite such quibbles, it’s an intelligent and visceral film, which is worth two thumbs up in my book.