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<Movie Details
20 May 2013 by Elliott Noble

Combining as it did the biggest action star of the day, a director hot off Robocop and visual effects so impressive they got their own special Oscar, anyone tinkering with the Total Recall brand had some big (re)boots to fill.

Making no attempt to re-bottle the 1990 lightning, the 2012 remakers wisely take a different approach to Philip K Dick's short story We Can Remember It For You Wholesale, jettisoning the links to Mars and keeping the plot strictly earthbound.

Which doesn't mean anyone keeps their feet on the ground. Indeed, there's so much jumping, falling and flailing around in zero gravity you'll wish cinemas fitted seatbelts as standard.

Following a global chemical war, only two habitable regions remain: the United Federation of Britain (a world of privilege and class, naturally) and 'The Colony' (Australia, where most of the workers and lesser mortals live. No comment).

They are connected by 'The Fall', a super-tube service that runs straight through the Earth's core. Understandably many of the folk from down under are fed up with the lengthy daily commute. That, and being oppressed by UFB's totalitarian fuhrer, Chancellor Cohaagen (Bryan 'Breaking Bad' Cranston).

But while some join the Resistance to fight Cohaagen's android police army, others, like assembly line drone Doug Quaid (Farrell) just want an escape from the drudge.

So off he goes to memory implant specialists Rekall for a little cerebral stimulation, plumping for a jaunt as a secret agent. Just as they hook him, however, they find a problem: he really is a secret agent! Surely some mistake, protests Doug as the cops burst in.

Two minutes and one wrecked Rekall suite later, he's not so sure.

Still, whether he's a delusional psycho or victim of mistaken identity, at least he can rely on his loving wife Lori (Kate Beckinsale) for support, right? Don't bet on it.

In fact, she turns out to be his worst enemy. Luckily, beautiful resistance fighter Melina (Jessica Biel) loves him for who he really is. Problem is, he doesn't know who he is. And there's no guarantee he'll live long enough to find out.

It could all be part of the Rekall package, of course. After all, they promised danger and derring-do, and that's what he - and the rest of us - get.

Just don't expect any of the sustained plot ambiguity or humour of Verhoeven's luridly re-watchable classic. Return of the three-breasted hooker aside, Recall 2012 is played as straight and steely as a lift shaft.

As you'd expect from the director of two Underworlds and Die Hard 4, Wiseman keeps it fast, furious and flashy. Actually his penchant for infusing his shots with camera glare might be a bit too flashy for some.

The production design is excellent, with sleek hover cars zipping around looming, multi-level cityscapes and a range of inventive gizmos, including the ultimate in phone handsets.

But with so many trappings borrowed from The Matrix and previous Dick adaptations like Blade Runner, Paycheck and most strikingly Spielberg’s Minority Report, the all-new Recall struggles to establish an identity of its own.

Similarly, while Farrell, Biel and Beckinsale (sporting the same unsmudgeable make-up that got her through Pearl Harbor) throw themselves wholesale into the chases, gunfights and fisticuffs, the characters never rise above the generic.

But it certainly packs enough muscle, pace and hi-tech sweep to show the average summer blockbuster a clean pair of heels.