Total Recall
dir Len Wiseman
scr Kurt Wimmer, Mark Bomback
prd Toby Jaffe, Neal H Moritz
with Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, Bryan Cranston, Bokeem Woodbine, Bill Nighy, John Cho, Will Yun Lee, Dylan Scott Smith, Simon Sinn, Andrew Moodie, Kaitlyn Leeb
release US 3.Aug.12, UK 29.Aug.12
12/US Columbia 1h58
Total Recall
Identity issues: Biel and Farrell

beckinsale cranston nighy
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Total Recall Director Wiseman invests this sci-fi action remake with plenty of visual whizzery even as he seems to miss the point of the story. This wouldn't be a problem if the film had a sense of its themes, took itself less seriously or included some originality in its impressive design.

After a chemical war, the remnants of humanity live in the last two hospitable ends of the earth while activist Matthias (Nighy) wages a terrorist war against the totalitarian government. Robotics worker Doug (Farrell) is happily married to Lori (Beckinsale) but has recurring nightmares in which he and a woman (Biel) are chased by robot-cops. So he visits a Rekall memory-implant centre to clear his mind, only to discover that his whole life might be an implanted memory. Then as he runs for his life, it's difficult to tell what's real and what's not.

Wiseman creates a Blade Runner-style future, with neon-lit gloom and constant drizzle. Fortunately, Farrell brings some emotive electricity that makes even the dullest dialog sound interesting. His interaction with his pal Harry (Woodbine) is enjoyably offhanded in all the ways that his marriage to the stone-faced Beckinsale and tough-girl Biel aren't. The problem is that Wiseman plays everything straight, ignoring the satire and irony that make Philip K Dick's original story so resonant.

Beneath the loud, chaotic action sequences is the intriguing story of a guy whose existence is turned upside-down when he discovers that he's not who he thinks he is. This gives the first act a charge of raw emotion that can never compete with the overwrought machismo of deafening violence and nonsensical (but achingly cool) technology. The villains, led by the Chancellor (Cranston) and his army of Storm Trooper drones, are relentlessly brutal as they chase Doug in Fifth Element hover-cars through a rusted-out, vertiginous Coruscant.

Undemanding filmgoers won't mind watching this cut-and-paste action through a series of kinetic videogame levels. But Wiseman only rarely remembers that personal moments that make a movie engaging, not mindless carnage, corny brain-bending twists, persistent misogyny and a hackneyed MacGuffin. That said, it's snappy and edgy enough provide some empty-headed entertainment. But in better hands it could have been much more than that.

cert 12 themes, violence, language 20.Aug.12

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