Future a dreary place in Wiseman's hands

Cinemaddict

BY MATTHEW DALLAS
Last updated 17:48 24/08/2012
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HEAD CASE: Colin Farrell goes looking for a better reality, or perhaps just a better movie, in the lacklustre new version of Total Recall.

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REVIEW: Despite all its convolution, bad hair, and, well, Schwarzenegger-ness, Paul Verhoeven's Total Recall remains an endearing slice of big budget sci-fi action 22 years on.

For many movie-goers of my generation who had been too young to really 'get' Blade Runner, Total Recall was an introduction to the notion of unreliable perspectives. We couldn't trust what we were seeing.

For a 14-year-old reared on the imaginative, though narratively straight forward pictures of Lucas, Spielberg and Donner, it was quite a novelty.

The idea that world-saving super spy Doug Quaid - and the audience - couldn't be sure if he was experiencing reality or a fabricated memory was as mind-blowing as the three-breasted hooker on Mars.

It was also half the fun of the movie - and I don't think Len Wiseman gets that.

The director has crafted a remake/reboot/redundancy that isn't much fun at all. In fact, it's bloody dull.

In the year 2100 only two continents remain inhabitable due to chemical warfare, The Federation of Great Britain and The Colony, aka Australia.

The former is a prosperous, industrial mega-city; while the latter is a grim, overcrowded labyrinth of futuristic favelas. A giant elevator runs through the centre of the planet, transporting people from The Colony to their blue-collar jobs in Britain.

By day Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell) works in a factory, but at night he dreams of adventure, fighting the oppressive Federation. When he visits Rekall, a business which implants false realities in the minds of average joes thirsting for a better life, all hell breaks loose.

Quaid learns he may have already been under the influence of Rekall - a top spy captured and hidden from his comrades in a new identity.

I'd like to say this is where the line between reality and Rekall becomes blurred, but it really doesn't. The second Wiseman decides to show events from the perspective of Quaid's 'wife' Lori (Kate Beckinsale), any sense of ambiguity is swifty drained from the picture.

So what does that leave us with? A dystopian action flick that bares closer resemblance to the previous output - read: crap - of Wiseman (Underworld series) and screenwriter Kurt Wimmer (Ultraviolet), than the twisted, thoughtful visions in Philip K Dick's We Can Remember It For You Wholesale which they were charged with adapting. A pointless exercise, executed without an ounce of class.

Farrell's Everyman hero owes plenty - including his dirty white T-shirt - to Bruce Willis, but there's very little for him to do beyond trying to look cool while discharging weapons.

Beckinsale, Wiseman's wife, gets an insane amount of screen-time for an actor only capable of two facial expressions - open-mouthed contempt and beady-eyed contempt. I guess she looks okay in tight pants though.

Jessica Biel, likewise, lacks any inkling of charisma, while Bryan Cranston at least has fun hamming it up as dastardly High Chancellor Cohaagen.

Here's hoping the remake of Verhoeven's other old action behemoth, Robocop, fares better.

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