I was fully strapped into the 2012 remake of “Total Recall” – which, by the way, is probably the first of many frightening remakes of ’90s films that will make me feel old and nostalgic – for the first two acts. It was working a bullet-riddled “Inception” or “Shutter Island” angle, and I was preparing for a climax that had a cerebral twist on the average adrenaline rush.
Well, I waited in vain. While people tend to blame Christopher Nolan for the sorry state of action films that are not in the “Batman” franchise, he’s hardly the most influential figure in the genre these days. Few try to emulate his dark twist on the familiar because even an ambitious failure requires some ambition and effort. The Nolan-inspired blockbusters are still few and far between.
“Total Recall” winds up in the Michael Bay category of action flick, adhering to his “there’s nothing like a good destruction scene” principle. Every time Len Wiseman’s movie seems to be taking a turn towards the intelligent or the thoughtful, someone starts getting chased, someone fires a gun, or something just gets blown towards the heavens. It’s not quite as bad in the beginning as you attempt to puzzle out whether Colin Farrell’s Douglas Quaid is just a normal man thrown into extraordinary circumstances like a Hitchcock hero … or a cold-blooded mercenary brainwashed into believing he’s average like Liam Neeson in last year’s dull thriller “Unknown.”
But in the end, Wiseman decides that it’s better to just blow people up rather than provide answers or catharsis. Who needs to tie up storylines when you can just sever their heads instead? Moreover, who needs to blow our minds with a statement on the subjectivity of reality when you can blow our minds and some buildings with pyrotechnics? As such, “Total Recall” makes for an intellectually unfulfilled experience. Though on the bright side, he does give us the ridiculously awesome Kate Beckinsale as the best female gunslinger since Chloe Moretz’s Hit Girl in “Kick-Ass.” Her unstoppable ruthlessness is as hilarious as it awesome … well, probably more on the hilarious side since her hair manages to stay so perfect even as she gets the snot kicked out of her. B- /