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Thursday, 24 November 2016

Retro Review: Total Recall (1990) #Schwarzenegger

Total Recall
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sharon Stone, Rachel Ticotin, Ronny Cox, Michael Ironside
Genre: Science Fiction Action
Worldwide Box Office Gross: $260 million

Plot: Douglas Quaid is a bored construction worker in the year 2084 who dreams of visiting the colonised Mars. He visits Rekall: a company that plants false memories into people's brains, in order to experience the thrill of Mars without having to travel there. But something goes wrong during the procedure: Quaid discovers that his entire life is actually a false memory and that the people who implanted it in his head, now want him dead

'Violent, Action-Packed Mind-Bender On Mars, As You've Never Seen It Before'

For those of you who are already aware of, Total Recall, besides Robocop, was the other of the 2 Paul Verhoeven movies that got remade in the post- 2000s. I don't really care for that version because it just doesn't appeal to me. It didn't look very appealing: that, and it got watered down for the family-friendly audience and got downgraded from an R-rating and 18 certificate in the UK to PG-13 in the US and 12A in Britain. 

Whereas quite simply and without hesitation, the original Total Recall is yet another great Arnie movie and a brilliant follow-up to Robocop by Paul Verhoeven. Released in the same year as his family comedy, Kindergarten Cop, Schwarzenegger's role of Douglas Quaid was reportedly going to go to none other than Patrick Swayze - which when you think about it, you can't really see it working out. I know I couldn't. 

Based on Phillip K. Dick's short story 'We Can Remember It For You Wholesale', this is a raucous, yet also entertaining offering, unleashed by Verhoeven on the masses, over 15 years ago and is the director's follow-up to the box office smash, Robocop of 3 years ago. 

The cutting-edge special effects are so completely out of this world, they look incredibly amazing; the action is relentless, fast-paced and well executed. The great thing about Total Recall is as a film, it never lets up: there is always something happening during every minute in every scene. Douglas is married to wife, Lori and they have been together for 8 years - or so we and he thought. Douglas wants to go to Mars, but she is not a fan of the idea. He takes a vacation to Rekall instead. Things take a dramatic turn, and from there onwards, his memory gets wiped out. Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse for Douglas, he discovers the agency in Mars he'd went to have implanted his memory and erased his identity. So, therefore, his life 6 weeks ago with Lori was apparently a sham, and that his personality is different. The bad guys want him dead, including head honcho named Cohaagen and they pull out all the stops to kill Douglas. Will Douglas find out the truth & will things ever be the same again for him, afterwards? Well, to answer that question, it's a yes.... but also a no. 

Total Recall delves into the issue of 'who we are?' and the implications of this notion, as the realities and fears of Douglas's that still succumb and play around in his mind, make a whole lot of sense, in the context of the events in the narrative and within the main plot. It is a film about Douglas's search for his true identity, and yet it is the way this is conceived that makes it so thrilling at times, as well as entertaining to watch.    

There are twists and surprises galore, characters backstabbing Doug, the tension is impalpable, terrific action and special effects (especially for a movie that was made in 1989 they still hold up today), as well as some gruesome special effects scenes. The bloodshed is heavy and the body count increases throughout this movie: a signature of Verhoeven's explicit onslaught of violence. Not to mention the three-breasted woman for the guys to gawp at. The opening flashback scene made me shut my eyes as it was grisly to the core, but it was also one that set off a chain of events involving Doug Quaid, his so-called wife played by Sharon Stone, who isn't all she seems to be and a third party - Doug's former flame. 

Additionally, it also has lots of great scenes: one of them being Quaid smashing through the glass-metal detector thing is a highlight, Quaid disguised as a woman, as is the girl fight between Sharon Stone and Rachel Ticotin - and it doesn't involve pulling each other's hair and the manner this is all unfolded is worth seeing, and the violence- though not as over-the-top as the former, Robocop, Total Recall is still as bloody but arguably with more established names, headlined by Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sharon Stone in the cast. In fact, the performances by the main cast are just wonderful throughout. They really embodied and captured their characters' personalities, both good and bad. Sharon Stone's breakthrough role as Doug's turncoat wife, Lori is great, as is Ronny Cox, who has never given a really bad performance as the antagonist, Cohaagen (he was also great in Robocop). 

With Arnie, he has appeared in memorable efforts in Predator, The Terminator to name in the 1980s, but in Total Recall, he really comes to life and thanks to the script and being surrounded by a competent cast, he plays to his strengths and gives him the ample opportunity to 'act' & deliver some classic one-liners, - besides being able to fire a gun - thus, giving his character considerable depth & presence. But it is Rachel Ticotin as Doug's sidekick and dream girl in Doug's past dreams, Melina, who besides Arnie, she also gives a terrific performance - and she is heroic and a good gal, unlike Lori. As a teenager, I never really cared much for Melina whilst I was watching this movie, but when I re-watched it several times as an adult, I appreciate what a great female protagonist ally she is to Quaid, and how integral she is to the story. And unlike some female sidekicks, she isn't one of those pretty-looking types with nothing to offer. She really is one of a kind. 

Then you have another assortment of secondary characters: a dwarf -looking girl, a one-eyed alien named Tony and guy who has an alien that pops out of his stomach (!), all of whom play a substantial role in the movie, as Arnold as Doug and Sharon Stone as Lori. 

You have amusing quips such as Melina going to Doug, right after the scene where he shoots Lori in the forehand: That was your wife?, Douglas nods his head in agreement and she goes, 'what a b****!'. That was amusing. 

In contrast, to say, Predator, Terminator movies, Commando and Raw Deal, besides all the gun-play, this isn't your standard Arnold Schwarzenegger affair, but more of a Verhoeven Sci-fi showing. Robocop was Verhoeven's introduction to the Western film front, whereas Total Recall helped solidified his reputation as a no-holds-barred European filmmaker in US movies, who despite his at times outlandish & over-the-top approach, engages in adult themes and concepts, fearlessly and with some artistic merit- for a brief while, up until Showgirls, anyway. & for Arnie, this is a uniquely satisfying offering that whilst he revels at doing what he usually does best in by beating people up, in addition, he shows layers in his performance as Douglas Quaid that makes that character believable, as he is convincing to the audience.

Total Recall is a terrific and delightful follow-up to Robocop by Paul Verhoeven - & a violently fun one to behold that through its twists and high entertainment factor remains as good as it is today as it was, during the '90s. 

Final Verdict:

Paul Verhoeven has crafted a high- octane and entertaining slice of adult sci-fi action with the usual profanity, special effects and gory action scenes, but even more to it, a story interlaced with pure substance and something to tell to the audience. Even over 20 years old, Total Recall still manages to be a fresh, alternate take on life on Mars and through the performances, ranging from Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sharon Stone to Ronny Cox, Michael Ironside and Rachel Ticotin, along with Robocop, it really is another sublime Verhoeven effort to marvel at. 

Though Verhoeven takes liberties with the original book and changes things up, such as making Quaid's wife a villain, which never happened in the book, this is still a fantastic standalone, futuristic-based movie that still revels in his kinetic and aggressive line of approach that he unduly takes in his depictions of violence. 

Encompassing a pulsating and equally gruesome climax towards the end, which is not for the faint-hearted (me included), forget the soulless remake.

1990's Total Recall is still to this day, as great as I remembered it when I first saw it in the mid/the late 1990s. 

*score last updated: January 12, 2017*


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