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Review: 'Total Recall' forgettable

By Michelle F. Solomon, Contributing writer
Published On: Aug 03 2012 12:44:03 PM CDT
Jessica Biel and Colin Farrell in Total Recall remake

Columbia Pictures

The 1990s Paul Verhoeven film "Total Recall" was uniquely different. It was sci-fi to the limit -- mutants that grew out of people's torsos, a frantic Arnold Schwarzenegger stuck on the Red Planet, and crazy Martian people that kept the action going.
The latest "Total Recall," starring Colin Farrell, has little in common with that movie. Once again, the main character is Douglas Quaid, a guy whose recurring nightmares and disenchantment have him ending up in the hot seat of a place called Rekall, a company that implants artificial memories into willing clients' brains to spice up their lives a little. In both films, this scenario sends both Quaids on a trip they'd rather forget.

Farrell's recurring dream is that he's a secret agent. When he finds out about Rekall, he decides that it's just the answer to help him sort out his problems and find a little excitement away from the hum drum of his daily existence. This Quaid doesn't go to Mars, but stays Earthbound. He lives his life as a factory worker in the late 21st century where chemical warfare has all but destroyed Earth. The only two places that are habitable are Australia, which is now "The Colony" and the United Federation of Britain. Quaid and his workmates travel half way around the world via something that looks like an amusement park ride for assembly line jobs putting together military robot police.

He lives in a dank apartment with his wife, Lori (Kate Beckinsale) who works as an emergency medical technician. After his visit to Rekall, Quaid's life changes dramatically and he's caught in a cat and mouse game where everything and everyone he thought he knew has turned into something different. Even his loving wife is now a ruthless killer. Along the way, he meets freedom fighter Melina (Jessica Biel) who helps him navigate this confusing world he's found himself in.

That's about it as far as the story goes. Bill Nighy plays the leader of a resistance group and Bryan Cranston ("Breaking Bad") is the ruthless chancellor of the UFB. They both know Quaid from his past life, which is conjured up after Rekall. Director Len Wiseman, who is best known for directing the first two "Underworld" films and "Live Free and Die Hard," and who also happens to be Beckinsale's husband, loads up the film with all kinds of over-the-top sets and futuristic junk including hover cars. The biggest spectacle of the film is called The Fall, a giant elevator that goes through earth, connecting the United Federation of Britain with The Colony.

They are a lot of shootouts with military bots, plenty of action where the characters hitch a ride on the mammoth elevator shaft, and there's a fairly extravagant hover car chase. Yet, there isn't much more to recall about "Total Recall 2.0." It's mind blowing for a moment, but then, poof, just like Quaid's memory, it's gone in an instant.