, 26 Mar 2007
Phillip K Dick (unfortunate name really) has been a favourite author for Hollywood adaptation since Blade Runner. This film, based on Dick's story We Can Remember It For You Wholesale, presents us with Doug Quaid (Arnie). Quaid is a construction worker who goes to Rekall to purchase the memory of a trip to Mars but when the procedure of installing the memory goes wrong he recovers his real memories of Mars, where he was a double agent working for eiether the dictatorial ruler (Cox) or the resistance (personified by Ticotin).
At least I think that's the plot. It is somewhat ambiguous whether Quaid or his alter ego are in fact the real person and thats one of the most interesting things about Total Recall.
The film is directed by mad dutchman Paul Verhoven. It's less satirical than his previous film; Robocop but matches, if not betters, it for action set pieces. Verhoven shoots action and special effects well and though the limitations of 1990 effects are shown up by the progress made in 15 years the work here is hugely impressive for the time.
The look of the film is interesting, every frame is packed with detail, particularly when Quaid reaches Mars it's inhabitants are beautifully and interestingly designed (only in a Paul Verhoven film will you find a hooker with three breasts). There is, however, one odd design gaffe. Look closely at the guards who try and stop Quaid as he arrives on Mars, the communicators on their wrists, hillariously, are Casio calculators.
The script, while in concept quite intelligent and literate, is merely functional. Dialogue serves eiether to advance the plot or provide Arnie a quip ('Consider dat a divorce', after shooting his wife in the head, is a highlight) but in it Verhoven finds fun details of life in 2084 (the cab Arnie tells to 'just drive' but which won't go anywhere without a specific destination).
Arnie is better here than he'd been before and while he's acceptable in the role a more cerebral leading man (with an aptitude for action) might have made for a more interesting hero. His acting is, as ever, pretty one note but the script has clearly been tailored to its star and so it works.
Rachel Ticotin makes for a bland, dull heroine but her boring presence is made up for by a young Sharon Stone as Quaid's wife. Stone has enormous fun here being a horrendous bitch and gets a great catfight with Ticotin.
Michael Ironside and a scenercy chewing Cox make for hissable villains and Cox gets some wonderful lines to establish just how eeevil he is.
Total Recall isn't a great film but, as undemanding Friday night beer and pizza movies go you'd be hard pushed to find one that's as much cheesy fun as this.
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