Movie review: Total Recall

From the August 2, 2012 edition

The string of recent reboots continues with director Len Wiseman (“Underworld”) updating the sci-fi action flick “Total Recall” by replacing Arnold Schwarzenegger with Colin Farrell, upping the special effects and adding bass drops. Oh so many bass drops.

I’m apathetic about reboots in general, because what I want most from a movie-going experience is imagination. And rehashing an old story usually doesn’t result in something mind-blowing or ground-breaking. Such is the case with “Total Recall.”

Unhappy with his life — despite being married to Lori (Kate Beckinsale) — Douglas Quaid (Farrell) goes to a memory-implanting company so they can give the memory of a lifetime; he wants to be a badass secret agent who gets the girl and saves the world. There’s only one problem: Apparently Quaid already has that memory, because that’s who he is. What follows is a wham-bam blend of chase scenes and whirlwind fisticuffs as Quaid and Melina (Jessica Biel) figure out what bad guy Cohaagan (Bryan Cranston) is plotting.

Wiseman creates eye-popping special effects reminiscent of “Minority Report” and “Blade Runner,” and fills the film with booming action sequences from the get-go. There are even some fun callbacks to the original.

Unfortunately, the retooled narrative is poorly executed, exposition is wedged in willy-nilly and it all feels empty. While the cast is good (I like Farrell better than most critics do), Beckinsale is the only one who’s obviously having fun with a character.