Ugly, stupid, loud, offensive, and pointlessly violent--let's not mince words--this film should be called TOTAL REJECT. This is prime example of an unfortunate tendency in modern blockbuster moviemaking. Runningly mindlessly amok drunk on money and contempt, TOTAL RECALL is overloaded with
inelegant special effects, bone-crunching "action," hideously cheesy make up effects, and gaping plot holes. That's entertainment? Any intelligent science fiction fan would be well advised to steer clear of this turkey and read a book instead. The late great Philip K. Dick must be retching in his
grave at this "adaptation" of his short story, "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale." One would never know from watching this headache-inducing movie that Dick was one of the most cerebral writers in science fiction. Part of what makes this film so infuriating is that the premise is pure gold but
the execution is insulting to the audience. Still it does have its passionate admirers. It takes all kinds....
Set in the year 2084, TOTAL RECALL tells the story of Doug Quaid (Schwarzenegger), a construction worker with a beautiful wife (Sharon Stone) and a nice home. This society of the future has provided a fairly good life for Quaid. Mars has become a colony of Earth but Quaid has never had time to
vacation there though he dreams of it every night (and of a mysterious woman he has never met). Quaid decides to pay a visit to Rekall Inc., a "travel" service that specializes in implanting artificial memories of vacations into its customers' brains. One can recline in a high-tech chair and enjoy
all the pleasures of a vacation at an accelerated rate with none of the fuss. Quaid purchases a memory of a trip to Mars. Included in the package is Rekall's special "Ego Trip" which allows the customer to take his "trip" as another person. Quaid chooses to travel as a fictional secret agent. When
the doctors begin the implant, something goes terribly wrong. Even before the memory is implanted, Quaid becomes crazed, claiming that he is a secret agent from Mars. Is this a previous implant or is it a real memory that had been obscured? The doctors subdue and tranquilize Quaid and release him.
Later, Quaid is attacked by coworkers and nearly killed by his wife. She confirms that he really is an agent posing as a construction worker. She also explains that she is not really his wife but actually another agent assigned to watch him. After fighting off would-be killers and learning more
about his past (with the help of a pre-recorded message from himself), Quaid escapes to Mars to unlock the rest of the mystery.
Up to this point TOTAL RECALL is fascinating as it deals with some recurring themes from Dick's fiction such as the search for identity, the slippery nature of reality, and the effect of drugs on perception. Rumor has it that Matthew Broderick was originally slated to star. If he had been the
protagonist, this would have been a radically different film, probably a much better one. Broderick would have been credible as a regular Walter Mitty-type who discovers that he may have had, unbeknownst to himself, a secret life of high adventure. In contrast, who could be less convincing as a
regular guy than Schwarzenegger? The Arnold can be just fine in the right vehicle (e.g. THE TERMINATOR and PREDATOR) but here his presence, and the obligatory tone that goes with it, turns an interesting science fiction premise into just another noisy dumb shoot-em-up. Pity.
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