Total Recall (PG-13)
It doesn't feel quite right to refer to something as Total Recall that doesn't feature Mars, a stomach-sprouted man-baby and a terrible Austrian actor yelling that the people "need aye-ar!" Take those things away and you've got something at once more polished and more pedestrian, i.e. Len Wiseman's remake of Arnold Schwarzenegger's 1990 hit.
The acting's better, the effects and dialogue less cheesy, but now it's your standard sci-fi snoozer, good enough only if you numb yourself to its many chases and don't focus too much on the details of the plot.
Both films are loosely based on a short story by Philip K. Dick, this time interpreted by scripters Kurt Wimmer (Law Abiding Citizen) and Mark Bomback (Unstoppable). It's 2084, and a company known as Rekall advertises that it can implant any memory you wish into your brain, rendering it so it's as if you've really had the experience.
In the original film, Schwarzenegger's Douglas Quaid wants to visit Mars. Here, Quaid's played by Colin Farrell, and he merely wants to escape his drab life working at a factory and living in a shack with, naturally, his gorgeous wife, Lori (Wiseman's actual wife, Kate Beckinsale). The world is split into two factions, and Quaid and his friend Harry (Bokeem Woodbine) travel back and forth in a gravity-defying metro system while Quaid repeatedly wonders if that's all there is. Meanwhile, a resistance is afoot between the world's halves.
On a lonely, beer-fueled night, Quaid decides to check out Rekall, where he decides he wants the memories of a secret agent. The staff warns him that if he's lied about his life — specifically, if he's ever really been a secret agent — things will go horribly wrong.
Soon, a gaggle of Stormtrooper-like soldiers infiltrate the place, and Quaid takes them all out with ease. His WTF experience begins, generally revolving around his past and whether he really is Douglas Quaid or a spy known as Hauser who's involved with a woman he's seen in his dreams (Jessica Biel).
The chase scenes and firepower are endless; everyone seems to have access to assault weapons and is adept at using them. And, as anyone who's seen Wiseman's Underworld and Underworld: Evolution can attest, the one thing the director excels at is making his spouse look good: Even when she's fighting — which, after what feels like a minute, is all the time — Beckinsale's Lori moves like Spider-Man with flowing hair and perfect makeup. At least Biel gets a sensible ponytail.
Farrell, meanwhile, drifts in and out of a vaguely British/Irish accent but otherwise feels natural as the perpetually baffled Quaid. The character eventually gets schooled in the film's politics, featuring a resistance leader (Bill Nighy) fighting the Man (Bryan Cranston), with both formidable actors wasted in too-small roles.
The gist of the plot, though, features psychological ideas such as a "paranoid dissociative break." Whatever that is, perhaps it's best your mind go there in order to fully enjoy the film.