Sunday, September 9, 2012

Recalling Total Recall

In a desperate attempt to shed the reputation I have among Maynoothians for only appreciating Lithuanian art cinema, I saw Total Recall last night. I haven't seen the original film, so I have no idea how they compare. I imagine Arnie was more convincing in the role of a man struggling to remember things, what with that being his natural demeanour in front of a camera. Whatever about his wooden acting abilities, however, in the action movie genre he had a presence few can match - Terminator I and II being definitive proof of that. Colin Farrell should feel no shame in Schwarzenegger's shadow, if that is the case.

As for the film itself, the best thing I can say about it is that it wasn't boring. That may sound like damnation with the faintest of praise, but for films of this kind I generally don't expect much more than that. Of course films can (and perhaps should) aim to do more. Seeing the rain relentlessly pouring down in the dark city streets couldn't but remind me of Ridley Scott's Blade Runner, a film with similar elements to Total Recall  (both are based on works by Philip Dick) but with far superior depth and impact (the scene with the Immortal Game followed by the creature confronting its creator is chillingly good). Where Blade Runner follows through on its convictions (perhaps at the cost of initial appeal and revenue), Total Recall backs away, leaving the woman with three breasts standing out like a sore thumb. What we end up with, in effect, is a simple chase movie that forgets about the stuff that made it potentially interesting. Since I'm a sucker for a chase movie I can get by (I enjoyed U.S. Marshals, for flip sake), but only just.

I also couldn't but think of that other Colin Farrell film based on a Philip Dick story (is this becoming a niche genre?): Minority Report. Total Recall pales in comparison to that work, but that didn't have to be the case. The elements are just as interesting; the executions, however, are light-years apart. One can only speculate that if this were the original Total Recall film, no one would deem it worthy of a remake, except maybe to right its wrongs.

One final point. Slavoj Zizek has noted the increasing absence of sex in Hollywood. For example, where James Bond would traditionally bed the female protagonist at film's end, the latest -- and crappiest -- adaptation had no such moment. Zizek sees this airbrushing out of sex as part of some liberal ideology, but I'm not entirely sure what he's getting at. Still, Total Recall, if you want it to be, is more evidence that he may be on to something. Apparently a sex scene between Farrell and Beckinsale was shot (by her husband, no less) but it never made the final cut. The most that Total Recall can accommodate in a film starring a Hollywood hunk alongside two Hollywood beauties is a short, awkward kiss between Farrell and Biel. Since this is hardly the puritanisation of Hollywood, what else might be going on here?*

* Paragraph not to be confused with a demand for more sex in films.


  1. OK, I still think it sounds like a rousing call for nudity. Apparently Shia LeBouef will fulfill those needs shortly.

    On a completely related matter I feel the need to see me say this in print. I'm half way through the second last episode of S4 of Breaking Bad and I've admitted it to myself, finally. This show SUCKS. Like badly. Like it sucks at sucking, that kinda bad. It's moronic beyond any reasonable expectations of belief.

    OK. That was it.

  2. Watching a fully clothed Shia LeBouef act is disturbing enough as it is, so I'll definitely pass on watching the nude version. Speaking of The Beef (a possible nickname once von Trier's film is released), have you seen Lawless? It looks like it could be good, but it hasn't been as well received as its looks suggest which is keeping me away from it

    Breaking Bad was my potential first post-The Wire series...if that makes sense. After this revelation I feel like I'd be spitting on your face if I went through with that. The Soprano's it is. (Yes, I know.)

  3. I haven't seen Lawless but I've seen the trailer and your piece just confirmed what I suspected. Last night I watched Shame. Psh. I'm not sure what I was supposed to feel from it. Hunger was awesome but maybe Steve McQueen should get off the mono-palabric (I think I just made that word up) feelings genre. Have you seen it? Basically Michael and Carey are messed up people and they know why but we don't.

    Breaking Bad is a show history will forget, I assure you. Just like it'll forget Dexter and just like it will forget Damages. Oh, you'd already forgotten Damages..? Well, fancy that. I'm gonna finish it though. Seems silly to come all this way and not. Though if we're talking about Breaking Bad and things that seem silly, well... I'd still thoroughly recommend the first four seasons of Mad Men. Not five though. More silliness. And for good silliness, Community.

  4. Yeah I've seen Shame. It was an interesting enough subject matter to make it, well, interesting, but I'm not entirely sure it worked as a story. It was more like watching a vicious circle for one revolution [?], which I suppose made it difficult to care about.

    I just saw Killing Them Softly this week. It was a strange mixture of extremely tense and violent scenes on the one hand and mundane conversations on the other. I can't quite put my finer on it yet, but I liked it. Well, liked is probably not the right word. It actually reminded me of Glengarry Glen Ross except with murder and robbery instead of real estate. Worth checking out anyway.