Friday, August 10, 2012



History can seem so quaint sometimes. Remember “Speed” (1994) and “Twister” (1996), a couple of proto-action flicks that made no pretense of being interested in exploring fascinating characters or presenting a clever plot.

Back then I loved these movies for being unabashed cheap thrills and acting so proud of it.

Well…the thrill is gone.

Len Wiseman, the director of “Total Recall” who was aided by several willing screenwriters, finally has bludgeoned his audiences into terminally fatal boredom. Blame it on the redundantly repetitious action scenes that never seem to end.

Taking his cue from the infamous Chinese water torture, Wiseman keeps banging us on the head with one chase scene after another. Who is chasing whom? Where are they running to…or running from? Why do we care?

The once unrepentant bad boy Colin Farrell is wading through his own bad karma here. Instead of becoming his generation’s number one action hero, Farrell has been outdistanced by Brad Pitt and a dozen others. This “Total Recall” will in no way bring Farrell’s career back to life.

All those screenwriters aren’t even pushing the “do over” button on Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 1990 screen adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s sci-fi story “'We Can Remember It For You Wholesale.”

When Paul Verhoeven was directing Schwarzenegger in “Total Recall,” both made tons of money. So now in 2012, Wiseman directs Farrell in a high concept sensory overload also called “Total Recall” with only the most ephemeral connection to Verhoeven and even less to Dick.

Nobody even goes to Mars this time. Instead, it is a century from now and a bunch of engineers have built a massive tunnel that goes straight through the Earth, connecting the imperious  metropolis that succeeded Great Britain and the only other civilized place in the whole world…Australia…now known as The Colony

Only it isn’t much of a success story as the whole country has been turned into a Skid Row rats’ warren of scurrilous survivors reminiscent of “Blade Runner.”

Farrell plays Douglas Quaid, a soot-collar proletarian who lives in the Colony and every day commutes to work in the evil metropolis. His partner in an unhappy marriage is Kate Beckinsale as Lori (the Sharon Stone role).

Jessica Biel completes a triangle of unhappiness on this landscape of desperation, though I can’t say for sure what’s at the root of it all.

Douglas has had his memories erased, thereby deleting his feeling of being worthless. But that’s when the bureaucrats discover he could be a spy with a very clever cover-up.

Is he or isn’t he? He doesn’t know. We don’t know. But he keeps trying to find out, long after we have stopped caring.



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