Directed by Len Wiseman Starring Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, Bryan Cranston, John Cho, Bill Nighy 118mins, general release, 12A
It’s late in the 21st century. Depressed by the dystopian cliches and quotations that surround him – did those cops pay royalties to wear the official uniform of the Imperial Stormtroopers? – factory wonk Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell) embarks on a remake of Paul Verhoeven’s defiantly trashy, none-more-1980s Schwarzenegger vehicle, with feeble results.
Philip K Dick fans hoping for a more veracious adaptation of We Can Remember It For You Wholesale than the 1988 version had best beware: Len Wiseman’s film is considerably less cerebral than its predecessor. No. Really.
The neat central concept – Ordinary Joe ponies up for the memories of an intergalactic superspy only to discover he is an intergalactic superspy – is quickly lost in a quagmire of grey CGI backdrops and pointless kineticism; the recent London Olympics, all told, featured less running and more plot. As our hero legs it in the opposite direction to his wife – Kate Beckinsale, hausfrau turned murderous rival superspy – Jessica Biel pops up to breathlessly explain Colin’s role in reliable character actor Bill Nighy’s rebellion against reliable character actor Bryan Cranston’s fascistic regime. The cast resume running but can’t quite escape the perfunctory plotting.
Say what you like about the Verhoeven flick: it at least had humour. Total Recall 2012, on the other hand, is witless in every sense of the word. Wiseman, the architect of the Eurotrash-tastic Underworld franchise, seems to have momentarily lost his penchant for camp. Barring two yuk-yuk references to the Schwarzenegger film – three- breasted prostitute and fat, implausible lady – the new movie resolutely refuses to turn its frown upside down. Paul Cameron’s gloomy cinematography confirms the ill-conceived seriousness of the project, Harry Gregson-Williams’s score thinks its soundtracking real science fiction, and by the time you’ve left the cinema, Christian Wagner’s amnesiac fast cuts make you believe you’ve paid for the memories of someone who hasn’t watched the film yet.
Most maddening of all is the film’s waste of resources. Colin Farrell is ill-served by crummy dialogue and headless chicken action. And you know that a film is badly written when even the mighty Bryan Cranston can’t quite convince as the villainous corporate overlord.
We’re tempted to call it Total Retread but that would be inaccurately flattering. Can anyone forget this for us wholesale?