SQUINT, and behold the countless subtle allegories of Total Recall: allusions to worsening economic inequality, to powerful nations' exploitation of weak ones, to terrorism and globalization run amok. Alternately, you can totally see a lady with three boobs! Which is probably what most people want out of a movie called Total Recall.
It claims to be "inspired by" Philip K. Dick's 1966 story "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale," but this Total Recall is a straight-up remake of the 1990 Paul Verhoeven/Arnold Schwarzenegger joint—except this time, it's set on Earth. Rather than getting his ass to Mars, Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell) travels between the two places on Earth that haven't been wrecked by chemical warfare: The United Federation of Britain, where the sun shines, everything's white, and people live in snazzy condos, and the Colony, AKA Australia, where it's always dark and rainy, dense shantytowns are coated with neon-lit grime, and a thoroughly melted pot of diasporic peasants live on top of each other. Quaid lives in the Colony, along with his ridiculously beautiful wife Lori (Kate Beckinsale), who would be worth living in any crappy slum for, but I digress. When he isn't working his shit job in a factory, Quaid's having weird dreams and getting fed up with the limits of his life.
So he goes to Rekall, a company that promises him an artificially implanted memory—but once they start mucking around in his brain, Quaid goes crazy. With a gun in his hand, dead bodies at his feet, and his memory skipping and stuttering, Quaid realizes he might not be who he thought he was.
This is how he tries to find out who he really is: He shoots more people. And also punches some robots, and gets in a flying car chase, and blows shit up, and gets deep ("If I'm not me, who the hell am I?"), and makes eyes at freedom fighter Melina (Jessica Biel). Then he blows more shit up.
It lacks the bloody, bug-eyed lunacy of Verhoeven's Total Recall, but this one—directed by Underworld and Live Free or Die Hard's Len Wiseman—is both a lot of fun and lot better than it needs to be. There are nods to Verhoeven's film, but for the most part, Wiseman and screenwriters Kurt Wimmer and Mark Bomback are content to dole out loads of splashy, spazzy action, craft dizzying, gorgeous futurescapes (Wiseman cleverly blends the visuals of two other loosely-inspired-by-Dick films, Blade Runner and Minority Report), and let Farrell be all Jason Bourne in the Year 2084. Will this Total Recall ever attain the cult status of Verhoeven's flick? Not a chance. Is it a pulpy, loud, totally decent way to spend a few hours? Definitely. Especially if you're into chicks with three boobs.