The remake of “Total Recall” is a total reboot, forsaking the 1990 Arnold Schwarzenegger version and going back to the source material, Philip K. Dick’s 1966 short story “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale,” which it forsakes in entirely different ways. Basically, there’s a guy in the future who seeks to have fake amazing memories implanted, only to find that he has actual amazing memories hidden in his brain already. That’s about all that Dick’s story, Arnold’s film, and the new remake have in common.
Still, fans of the ultra-violent 1990 hit will be glad to know that the new version — directed by Len Wiseman (the “Underworld” franchise) and starring Colin Farrell — has managed to keep the triple-breasted hooker, which seems to be the main thing people remember about the other film. It’s a bit of a mixed message. Wiseman’s movie is PG-13, wildly different in plot, and utterly Arnold-free, all of which suggests they weren’t concerned about getting the old “Total Recall” enthusiasts onboard. But the presence of the three-boobed prostitute suggests otherwise. But who can say what, if anything, goes on in the minds of studio executives who remake well-known properties?
Farrell plays Douglas Quaid, a factory worker in a future version of Earth where the United Federation of Britain (i.e., the U.K.) and the Colony (i.e., Australia) are the only remaining habitable places, which would be terribly inconvenient were it not for a clever means of high-speed transportation that’s been established between the two. The heavy-handed tactics of the U.F.B. government, headed by one Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston), have led to a resistance movement in the Colony, led by Matthias (Bill Nighy), a mysterious underground figure whose sympathizers have been labeled terrorists.
But that is of little concern to Quaid and his wife, Lori (Kate Beckinsale), who are poor but happy living in the noisy, squalid Colony (portrayed as a crowded, Bangkok-like metropolis). Quaid, however, has recently been perplexed by strange dreams featuring a mystery woman (Jessica Biel), and he grows uneasy at the thought that his life is missing something. New brain-tampering technology known as Rekall may have just the solution: you can have fictional memories inserted that will feel as authentic to you as your actual memories. Whatever you wish you could have done, you can remember it as though you had. What is “reality,” anyway, if not our perception of it?
Well, turns out Quaid already has some rather alarming knowledge stored in his noggin, indicating he might have been Rekalled once before and had his recollection of the process wiped away. He has abilities he did not realize he had. The mystery woman from his dreams shows up. Lori and the resistance movement get involved. People run around shooting at each other and pushing one another off of things and blowing things up.
A handful of the action sequences are ambitiously staged and excitingly delivered, and Beckinsale (who is married to the director) seems to be enjoying herself in what proves to be a pivotal role. Farrell and Biel are just sort of along for the ride, though — which fits the “eh, good enough” attitude of the movie as a whole. It’s a generic, inconsequential sci-fi caper that looks slick and has a famous title, and offers little else, no matter how many nipples the whores have.
C (1 hr., 58 min.; )