While loosely based on Phillip K. Dick's short story "We Can Remember it For You For Wholesale", Director Len Wiseman (Underworld, Live Free Die Hard) and screenplay writer, Kurt Wimmer (Equilibrium) source the version starring Paul Verhoeven (Robocop) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (Terminator, True Lies) as the main inspiration for the new film.
If you are unfamiliar with Total Recall (aka you were born in the 90s), the basic plot goes something like this: Douglas Quaid (Collin Farrel, In Bruges, Fright Night) is a blue collar construction worker who feels his life is meant for more aside from his dumpy apartment and his gorgeous but distant wife (Kate Beckinsale, Underworld). He visits "Rekall" where your dreams can become a reality through manipulation of your mind. However, Douglas visit to Rekall is cut short when they hit a memory cap and his entire life is turned upside down.
While the previous Total Recall tried to blend thought provoking science fiction with over-the-top action, and comedy, this new version strips out all of those elements and tries to go for the mind-numbing quick cuts and ludicrous action sequences that numb the senses to a point that any soul the movie had the first go round is stripped out, thrown on the ground, and stomped upon.
The only humor provided in the film is the "tongue-in-cheek" nods to the original film such as the three-breasted prostitute (of course they don't explain how she got three-breasts since there isn't any "bad air" to create mutants such as the original film explained), and a nod to the malfunctioning obese lady disguise Arnold Schwarzenegger used in the first film.
Moreover, the heart of the original film was in that it always tried to play up the aspect that the entire experience was a dream (or was it reality?) whereas the second one just accepts that this is all happening in the real world. Much like if you are going to remake ‘Star Wars' you have to have "the force" - Total Recall was all about Quaid's struggle between dream and reality.
One would expect with actors such as Collin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale (Underworld), and Jessica Biel (Blade: Trinity) recruited for this remake the film would have a fighting chance or at least be watchable. However, even their performances appear to be dumbed down to the point that you actually look forward to the loud action scenes just to not hear them utter their lines.
The special effects and action are pretty much by the numbers with nothing that will stay with you after you leave theater. There is your standard car chase, your "one-man beats up 10 bad guys in less than 20 seconds" action, and of course the standard CG you would expect in today's cinema. Nothing about the effects in this film screams Oscar as the original one did in 1990 (and went on to win the Oscar that year for Best Special Effects).
Hopefully someday a place such as Rekall will be invented, so one can erase this horrible film from your mind. Until then, do yourself a favor -- purchase the brand new Total Recall Mind-Bending Edition Blu-ray and treat yourself to a truly amazing film that will never, and should have never, been touched.