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Total Recall

Confession: I’m a HUGE Colin Farrell fan. I’ve been known to exclaim that anything with him in it, is worth at least a look. Alright, maybe not Oliver Stone’s “Alexander”, but maybe some day I’ll give one of the versions a shot(Stone has recut it multiple times…to no avail, apparently). But he followed that critical and financial disaster with one of my all-time favorite films, Terrence Malick’s “The New World” from 2005. The following summer he was the new “Sonny” Crockett in 2006’s criminally underrated “Miami Vice” update from Michael Mann. He scored twice for Martin McDonagh with 2008’s “In Bruges” and last fall’s “Seven Psychopaths”. Colin was also unexpectedly hilarious in 2011’s “Horrible Bosses” from Seth Gordon, and then a month after that release, a creepily effective Jerry Dandridge—the vampire villain in Craig Gillespie’s remake of 1985’s cult classic “Fright Night”. The man has some real acting chops. So, despite what I’d read, I was somewhat enthusiastic about Mr. Farrell trying on Douglas Quaid—the role Arnold Schwarzenegger originally filled in 1990’s original “Total Recall”. Maybe Colin could make it work, I thought. Or maybe not. Actually, definitely not. I don’t recall being particularly fond of the Paul Verhoeven version from 22 years prior to this one, but I would definitely revisit it. For one thing, Verhoeven did give us both 1987’s “Robocop” and 1997’s “Starship Troopers”—and both of those are a blast. If anything, I remember sitting in a theater in the summer of 1990 thinking, that at the very least, “Total Recall” was cheesy fun. The new one is just a CGI-heavy dud.

It’s the late 21st century, and much of the earth is uninhabitable. In fact, all that’s left is Great Britain and Australia, and factory workers travel through the earth between both via a gravity elevator(dubbed “the Fall”). 21st century Earth life is bleak, so factory grunt Doug Quaid(Mr. Farrell)visits a company called Rekall, which entertains its customers with fantasy role-playing by implanting artificial memories. Quaid is convinced it would be fun to be given the identity of a secret agent—he’s even shown reading an old Ian Fleming “Bond” paperback earlier in the film. But as Quaid is being prepped by employees to be implanted with the agent persona—it’s discovered that he’s suppressing real memories of being a superspy. Moments later, a kill-team bursts into Rekall and slaughters everyone—except Quaid, who surprises himself by violently overtaking the members of the team and escaping. When returning home to his wife Lori(the knockout-gorgeous Kate Beckinsale)she tries to murder him while confessing that she’s not in reality his spouse, but actually an undercover agent that’s been hired to track Quaid. And the breathless chase begins. Soon, Quaid will encounter Melina(hot-body Jessica Biel)—a woman who keeps appearing in a recurring dream of his. Then a resistance movement is uncovered, there’s some mumbo-jumbo nonsense with kill codes and robotic armies, and huge set-pieces of overblown special effects that resemble outtakes from “Blade Runner”(both stories were penned by Philip K. Dick—so is it homage?). All of that would be fine if there was any sense of fun. But, alas…

I was in the camp that thought director Len Wiseman did a fine job with 2007’s “Live Free or Die Hard”—Bruce Willis’ 4th go-round as the “Die Hard” series’ John McClane. That one was guilty of going too big as well, but at least it remembered to have a sly sense of humour. “Total Recall” 2012 just feels flat and uninspired. In fact, not coincidentally, the best thing about the film is Ms. Beckinsale—who also happens to be the wife of the director. Kate’s “bad guy” role is smart and sexy, and the perfect counterweight to Farrell’s “everyman”, Douglas Quaid. Of course, she’s had plenty of practice with this type of actioner as the star of the “Underworld” series—all of which were either directed, produced, or both—by her significant other. “Total Recall” has some oomph, whenever Kate’s on-screen. The same cannot be said of Ms. Biel, who seems unsure of just what to do with her role as the “good” girl. And I’m feeling that the capable Colin is simply miscast here. He’s brought just the right touch to so many works of the last decade or so. Maybe his “worker-bee” Quaid is even a bit too ordinary, therefore lacking the comic-book snarky style of lesser-actor(but bigger star)Ah-nold S. And those CGI sets are just way too much. How about spending a little extra cash on that convoluted screenplay from Kurt Wimmer and Mark Bomback. So, not all Colin Farrell starrers are worth the trip. Not even with two hot co-stars and support from incredible character actors like Bryan Cranston and Bill Nighy. Even they can’t save it. Now, if Kate Beckinsale had played the lead character—that may have made all the difference.   Grade:  C-         

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