Total Recall

★★
(M)
General release (118 minutes)

DIRECTED by the sly Dutch brutalist Paul Verhoeven, the original Total Recall (1990) exemplified his way of serving up gory pulp fiction with a malicious wink. The everyman hero Douglas Quaid (played by non-everyman Arnold Schwarzenegger) hands his brain over to Rekall, a company that specialises in implanting customers with fake memories of thrilling adventures.

After the procedure goes wrong, Quaid rediscovers his true, hidden self and saves the planet for real. Or is he simply getting what he paid for, a wish-fulfilment dream?

The sarcasm is less firmly underlined in this remake starring Colin Farrell and directed by Len Wiseman. Where Verhoeven favours a slick comic-book look, Wiseman's style is superficially grittier, reliant on desaturated colours, whip pans and lens flare. Yet the film's dystopian setting is blatantly derivative of sci-fi classics from Metropolis to Blade Runner. In a sense, Wiseman is more cynical even than Verhoeven - and far less concerned with the deeper meanings of a story about the quest to separate reality from illusion.

Though Quaid supposedly faces a major identity crisis, Farrell hardly plays a character at all. He's simply a generic action hero, defined by his working-man stubble, up-turned collar and alarmed, cartoonish eyes. If anything holds Wiseman's attention, it's the running battle between his two leading ladies - Jessica Biel as a resistance fighter and Kate Beckinsale as Quaid's supposed wife.

The story Total Recall first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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