Total Recall is a sci-fi action movie with the focus on the action but there’s plenty here for sci-fi fans to enjoy and the names of those involved should impress any fan of the genre. Paul Verhoeven directs, a man who has also given us the great Robocop and Starship Troopers. Arnold Schwarzenegger is the leading man – you may remember him from one or two minor sci-fi hits like The Running Man and The Terminator movies. Michael Ironside may no longer be one of the Scanners but he’s always been a great actor. Rob Bottin is in charge of the effects, after his amazing work on the likes of The Howling, The Thing and Robocop. And the whole thing is inspired by a short story entitled “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale” that was written by the highly talented Philip K. Dick.
Douglas Quaid (Schwarzenegger) keeps having strange dreams about being on Mars with some woman. It ends with him gasping for air and about to die. His wife (Sharon Stone) is concerned by the recurring dream but doesn’t want to take that vacation to Mars that Quaid keeps thinking about. Mars is full of civil unrest and many people are unhappy about the activities of Cohaagen (Ronny Cox), a man who basically controls the air supply. As a better, and more affordable, option, Quaid goes along to Rekall to get a memory implant. It’s like all the fun of the holiday on Mars with none of the drawbacks. He even opts to pay a bit extra for a “secret agent” package. But something goes wrong and Quaid has to fight his way out of Rekall and then start running for his life. He IS a secret agent. Or, at least, he believes that he is. Has he already been to Mars and somehow blocked the memory or is he having some kind of psychotic breakdown?
Coming from Verhoeven, you can be assured that Total Recall is full of some great humour, some of it sly and some of it more obvious. There are times when things seem a bit restrained considering the pairing of director and star but when the bullets fly and the bloodshed occurs it’s obvious that this is an irresistible combination of wit, intelligence and a bit of the old ultra-violence for everyone involved.
The screenplay by Ronald Shusett, Dan O’Bannon and Gary Goldman (based on the story by Shusett, O’Bannon and Jon Povill that took a leap from the Philip K. Dick tale) mixes in satire, some great one-liners and fantastic set-pieces. The dark humour may have been more prevalent in the original screenplay, according to Dan O’Bannon, but it’s still very much present throughout and a welcome vein running through the movie. The fact that the film comes together so well, after so many drafts were written throughout the years, is a testament to all of the creative forces who put their faith in the material.
Rob Bottin does as great a job as ever and the film brilliantly mixes some wonderful practical effects with early CGI work. There’s soemthing for every FX fan to enjoy here. Amazing artwork, some wonderful designs, fantastic puppetry. And a woman with three breasts (which kept making me laugh as I thought about the same image depicted in Paul).
The cast are all fantastic. Schwarzenegger may have been absent from any major lead role in some time now but he was THE star name of the 80s and early 90s. Sharon Stone shows the mix of strength and sexiness that would become her most valuable commodity. Michael Ironside is Michael Ironside (there’s no need to say any more about the man and that is a scientifically proven FACT!!). Ronny Cox and Marshall Bell are great, as is Mel Johnson Jr. The only performance that falls slightly flat is the one from Rachel Ticotin (as the mystery woman on Mars) but I think that’s more to do with expectations than her acting – you can’t imagine anyone but the most amazing woman on the planet grabbing the attention of big Arnie away from the likes of Sharon Stone.
For many other people, this would be a career highpoint. It says more about the filmographies of Verhoeven, Schwarzenegger and Bottin than it does about the movie itself when I saw that this isn’t their best work but it’s still absolutely superb entertainment.
DIRECTOR: PAUL VERHOEVEN
WRITER: RONALD SHUSETT, DAN O’BANNON, GARY GOLDMAN
ACTORS: ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, SHARON STONE, RACHEL TICOTIN, MICHAEL IRONSIDE, RONNY COX, MARSHALL BELL, MEL JOHNSON JR
RUNTIME: 113 MINS APPROX