As remakes go, this could have been much worse. Certain elements are closer to the original story than they were in the original film. The special effects are significantly better. Yet at the same time, this is a largely bland adaptation of a film that could have done much more with the Philip K. Dick source material. Rather than focus on a workable story, the effort was turned to the chase scenes and CGI at the expense of all else. And boy, does it show.
Welcome to Rekall, the company that can turn your dreams into real memories. For a factory worker named Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell), even though he’s got a beautiful wife (Kate Beckinsale) who he loves, the mind-trip sounds like the perfect vacation from his frustrating life – real memories of life as a super-spy might be just what he needs. But when the procedure goes horribly wrong, Quaid becomes a hunted man. Finding himself on the run from the police – controlled by Chancellor Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston), the leader of the free world – Quaid teams up with a rebel fighter (Jessica Biel) to find the head of the underground resistance (Bill Nighy) and stop Cohaagen. (Synopsis by Sony)
A major complaint wtih action movies over the last few years has been their adaptation of the “video game” mentality of plot development. In other words, plot elements exist as little else but springboards between fighting, or in this case, running from the enemy. While this is excusable in some films that never attempt to be anything more than straight action fare, trouble arises when the plot tries to be something more. In this case, the central mystery (is he really a secret agent or is it only the implanted memory?) is trumped by the movie’s incessant need to see Colin Farrell run and jump off tall buildings.
Where the movie shines is the detail put into the contrasting dystopian and elegant worlds of the two remaining outposts of life on Earth. The eternally dreary Colony is an impeccably created, eternally raining slum. The United Federation of Britain is crafted to look like a post modern Rome awash in sunlight, marble, and bright colors. For all that detail, it still seems oddly familiar. Those of us remembering “Minority Report” or even “Blade Runner” will notice the similarities.
Perhaps most damning to the film’s intent is that. between all the slick CGI, explosions and fight or chase scenes, it is never able to develop a strong enough sense of danger for the characters. No matter what happens, Colin Farrell finds his way out while showing the emotional range of a basset hound out for a stroll in the park. He never acts like he is in danger and therefore we never feel like he is.
Then of course there is the eternally confusing use of the villains – both Beckinsale and Cranston – who manage to pop out from the scenery every time that Farrell stops to catch his breath. That kind laziness in the writing is inexcusable. “Mr. Wimmer? We have a decision point in the plot. Yes, um, Mr. Farrell’s character can either spend a minute speaking with Ms. Biel’s character about his current reality. Or! We can have then jump out of the window of a 30-story building when Mr. Cranston pops up from behind the couch waving a hunting knife and reciting Cat Scratch Fever. Jump out the window? Ok, got it!”
“See It/ Rent It/ Skip It”: Rent it. Like a prostitute with three boobs, it seems like a good thing until you start to really think about it.
TWO STARS out of four.
Directed by Len Wiseman.
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, some sexual content, brief nudity, and language.
Runtime: 2 hr. 01 min.