The almost nonstop chase of the new “Total Recall” isn’t enough, by itself, to make one forget the 1990 take on this Philip K. Dick story that starred Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sharon Stone.
And despite all the effects, the action and the showcase performance created for his wife, Kate Beckinsale, director Len Wiseman never lets us forget that he’s no Paul Verhoeven, director of the original film. He doesn’t have Verhoeven’s limited inventiveness or his kinky and wicked wit.
But he does have Beckinsale. In this outing, she’s the villain, the adoring wife whom Doug Quaid (Colin Farrell) thinks he’s been waking up to these past seven years. And she’s terrific.
We’re 100 years in the future. Memories can be invented, introduced, changed, bought and sold.
“We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” was the title of the 1966 story on which “Recall” is based, and the folks at the Rekall corporation are all about tinkering with your memory, your reality.
“Tell us your fantasy, we’ll give you the memory,” a Rekall guru (John Cho) purrs. “What is life but our brain’s perception of it?”
Exactly. It’s a measure of this movie’s mediocrity that the many credited screenwriters and the director cannot make more of that possibility. We never are made to doubt Doug’s reality any more than he does.
Doug has been waking up with Lori (Beckinsale), but dreaming of Melina (Jessica Biel). It turns out that those dreams are his real past. He was an agent mixed up with a rebellion. Also involved was a rebel agent (Biel) who worked for the rebel leader (Bill Nighy) or perhaps for the villainous Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston of TV’s “Breaking Bad”).
Humanity has barely survived a chemical world war and we’re living in two enclaves, Euromerica and New Shanghai, that are battling for global supremacy. And we’re living in layers, stacked up from the Earth’s surface, where futuristic Mini Coopers and Fiats remain…
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