Colin Farrell's latest leading role has him in a trippy science-fiction actioner with a huge emphasis on the latter as he seems to finds himself in many Hollywood remakes which has him in a "No Zone" for a while.
This one, Total Recall (2012) is again inspired by a 1960s Philip K. Dick short story after the 1990 original during the height of Arnold Schwarzenegger's stardom that Dutch helmer Paul Verhoeven harnessed to darkly visceral, intriguing and occasionally witty effect "Consider this a divorce". Even though it may have been hampered by an anticlimactic finish. Many of the details are altered while many of elements retained from a time during the inception of spiffy visual effects crucial for the main character who may have the ability to stop an imminent war.
In this reworking by director Len Wiseman (wife Kate Beckinsale of Contraband has the Sharon Stone role here), a post-apocalyptic Earth (circa early 22nd Century instead of Mars) is the setting after a global biological disaster has brought on class warfare. Society consists of the refined United Federation of Britain (whose London is currently hosting the Olympics and here has become the dominant nation) and the more crummy Colony (think a little of Blade Runner) of which Farrell's anxiety-ridden Douglas Quaid (same name as the Schwarzenegger character) and coworker friend Harry (an unearthly Bokeem Woodbine of "Devil" and "Ray") reside. Australia, that is, being home to these drones who work in a factory for the upper class by way of a super-sized elevator, The Fall (going through the Earth's core in a quarter-hour) , under the auspices of robotic authority.
Away from the serf milieu on the other side of the world, Quaid is having bad dreams at night as inviting wife Lori (Beckinsale) mentions to him "Do I make you feel trapped?" A strained Douglas seems to be having the mysterious Melina (Jessica Biel of New Year's Eve and The A-Team) on his romantic mind. Giving choice memories is what the Rekall company offers and Douglas needs to escape to his dream life. Harry admonishes him, nevertheless, about leaving his routine, in this case, for a secret agent fantasy.
What ends up being rather coiled starts out with Quaid believed to be a threat against the British Federation (think of Minority Report from a decade ago which had Farrell in a better part opposite Tom Cruise) and fugitive with Melina as the film's tagline "What Is Real?" tries to gain significance. Is he part of some rebel alliance or a double agent? Melina (done by Rachel Ticotin in the original) could be the one Quaid actually loves while the government could have erased an earlier pro-resistance life. There's also a hidden code tucked away deep in his neurological recesses as an invasion of the Colony is in the works. It involves going with his new tough slinky companion to learn more about himself by way of a messianic rebel Mathias, an undistinguished, unflappable, yet underused Bill Nighy.
With Wiseman at full gleeful throttle, Farrell makes for a low-key, if staunch tormented hero and Beckinsale's lithe Lori with all kinds of weapons at her disposal tries to endear male audiences to an excessively shadowy Selene mindset from the Underworld saga. Too fast (for some) is the catty confrontation in an elevator with Melina. This Recall is not the total of its splashy, new computer imagery (preferably to some in the large-screen 3D format) and i-Phone capabilities thorough a frantic, vivid climax at The Fall. A cool new packaging with attractive stars rewired for a new age of instant insistence in its infancy isn't the hearty hallucinatory sci-fi spectacle that might have been offered by a company like Rekall or intended in a brutal, brave new world by Dick.