Wednesday, March 02, 2011

“Get your ass to Mars.”

Rounding out the impromptu Arnold trifecta (yes I'm counting Commando from last month), we turn to 1990’s Total Recall, which is a thoughtful meditation on self-identity, memory, free will and destroying mining equipment with oversized power drills.

Douglas Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is an otherwise happy construction worker who’s haunted by strange dreams of being on Mars with a woman, Melina (Rachel Ticotin) who’s not his wife Lori (Sharon Stone). He turns to Rekall Inc. which sells “mental vacations” by implanting memories into clients. Something goes wrong and Douglas Quaid remembers being a secret agent/freedom fighter named Hauser affiliated with the Martian resistance. Chased by agents of Martian dicator/CEO Vilos Cohaagen (Ronny Cox) and his right hand man Richter (Michael Ironside), Quaid/Hauser tries to track down his missing past, surviva Cohaagen’s men, find resistance leader Kuato (Marshall Bell), find Melina and along the way he teams up with a cab driver named Benny (Mel Johnson Jr.). And of course, there’s the three-breasted prostitute, because you can’t discuss Total Recall without mentioning her.

Or Quaid is stuck in Rekall’s memory machine and only thinks that he’s a former secret agent trying to liberate Mars. It’s deliberately left vague.

Directed by Paul Verhoeven, the movie looks great and the movie jumps from action scene to action scene at a high clip. The effects are also solid, with a lot of practical prosthetics for the Martian mutants and so on. Some of the vehicles though, are a little goofy looking.

“Inspired” by the Philip K. Dick short story “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale.” Screen story by Ronald Shusett, Dan O’Bannon, & Jon Povill. Screenplay by Ronald Shusett, Dan O’Bannon and Gary Goldman. The story is actually surprisingly thoughtful for a big action movie, what with the refusal to be clear on whether Quaid really IS Hauser or merely imagining all of these things as part of his “mental vacation.”

Original music by Jerry Goldsmith, and appropriately, its quite good.

Compared to the previous two Arnold films, Total Recall is easily the classiest, most sophisticated of the three. If you feel like thinking, it actually has a lot for you to find, such as the “is it real or just in his head?” question. If you don’t feel like thinking, its got plenty of “Get your ass to Mars” and “Screw YOU!!” moments to satisfy your barbarian urges.

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