Douglas Quade (Schwarzenegger) visits the dream-implant company Rekall, only to discover he is not a schlubby construction worker (really?), but a corporate super-spy planted under cover with a wife (a coquettish Sharon Stone) who isn’t his wife. His dreams of visiting Mars are shreds of real memories as the said super-spy, and a pack of bad guys led by a sneering Michael Ironside keep trying to kill him.
The only thing to do is to go back to Mars to discover the truth about the Mars colonists revolt and the mysterious alien machine buried beneath the surface. I really wish he hadn’t bothered…
When Dutch director Paul Verhoeven turned his leery pornographer’s eye to big budget sci-fi and turned out the most expensive movie ever to that date, who knew it would be a by-the-numbers action shoot-’em-up with a script off the back of a cereal box? Er, everyone. Why did so many go to see it and so few care?
With Ronnie Cox playing a silent movie villain lacking only a silver-top cane and moustache to twirl, Bennie, the only black character a mutant turncoat, and the mutants of Mars repeatedly shown in a frieze of prosthetic freakery (including a triple-breasted prostitute), it was never going to be Hamlet.
This is a catalogue of bad. Bad dialogue with bad gags in even poorer taste than Robocop. The action made no sense, with bad stunts, bad vehicles and ludicrous shootouts in which Arnie wipes out half of Mars single-handed. The effects are no better, some of the worst model work since Logan’s Run in the 1970s; that was state-of-the-art, this is just a state.
Butchering the plot of Philip K. Dick’s We Can Remember It For You Wholesale, Verhoeven replaces wit with heavy-handed, bloody violence, and satire with his usual sadism: assorted dismemberings, impalings, graphic shootings and batterings. Add a dash of misogyny: Arnie shoots Stone to the line “consider this a divorce” and we’re meant to find it funny. Blade Runner it ain’t.
All in all, it added up to a criminal waste of $150m-plus, lowered the collective IQ of the planet and kept Verhoeven in work for the equally hateful Showgirls, nasty and shallow Starship Troopers and downright vile Hollow Man.
Don’t get caught up in the nostalgia. This is not a lovable old cartoon action movie. Let’s hope Colin Farrell can do better. RC
Total Recall (1990)
Director: Paul Verhoeven
Writers: Dan O’Bannon, Ronald Shusett, Gary Goldman
Running Time: 1hr 53min
Genre: Action & Adventure, Science Fiction & Fantasy
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ronnie Cox, Sharon Stone, Rachel Ticotin, Michael Ironside