Sunday Short Reviews

Every Sunday, Gill delves into his archive of over 800 movie reviews and randomly selects three for your enjoyment! Here are this week’s…

Total Recall (1990)
This is the ultimate sleazy sci-fi movie, made by the master of gory camp himself: Paul Verhoeven. A clever premise, based on Philip K. Dick’s story We Can Remember It For You Wholesale, elevates Total Recall beyond the inherent silliness of Arnold Schwarzenegger acting befuddled and actually causes the audience to walk away from the movie thinking about whether the whole film was actually the remembered fantasy of the main character, or if it had all, in fact, happened to him. It’s strange to see a somewhat cerebral science fiction movie so full of blood and breasts, but Total Recall works, and it works very well. This was one of the first rated-R movies I ever saw, and it still holds up today as a fun mix of action, cheese, and thought-provoking philosophy.
4 out of 5

Total Recall (2012)
The 2012 remake of Total Recall is one of those rare instances where the remake of a camp classic still holds together well as a mindless popcorn flick, but it really says something when the Paul Verhoeven version of the story ends up being the smarter film. Total Recall (2012) is a lot more like The Bourne Identity in a sci-fi setting than it is the original Total Recall, and many of the story beats actually follow the first Bourne movie almost exactly. Colin Farrell makes a decent protagonist, but somehow Arnold Schwarzenegger’s interpretation of the Douglas Quaid character works better, as you truly believe his confusion. Farrell’s Quaid has a few moments of strange realization in the face of his long-forgotten spy skills, but he never seems as scared as Arnie’s Quaid. Kate Beckinsale does a fine job filling the Sharon Stone role, but Jessica Biel’s character is completely flat and doesn’t make for a convincing love interest. The biggest problem with the movie, I found, was its unwillingness to distance itself from Verhoeven’s film, as Len Wiseman’s Total Recall doesn’t resemble Verhoeven’s in any way except for the premise. However, Wiseman feels the need to shoehorn multiple references to Verhoeven’s version into his own, and they all stick out pretty blatantly. The worst example is the inclusion of the three-breasted hooker, who had no reason to be in this movie other than to serve as fan service. There are no mutants, the story never goes to Mars…so why would a three-breasted woman even exist? Other things that I loved from Verhoeven’s Total Recall that weren’t included in Wiseman’s include Quoto the stomach-mutant, Benny the fast-talking cab driver, the Johnny cab, and the hologram decoy used by Arnie in the final action scene. The biggest misstep, however, is the lack of blood and gore. A PG-13 rating significantly drags down the movie, and in the end, it’s little more than a fun little sci-fi romp. It speaks to the brilliance of the premise, however, that the movie still poses some interesting questions about the nature of memories…but these questions are handled so poorly in comparison to the original that they don’t work nearly as well. This isn’t a bad movie by any stretch of the imagination, but don’t go in looking for anything deep…or a remake of Total Recall, for that matter.
3 out of 5

The Way of the Gun
This film from writer/director Christopher McQuarrie is an interesting crime movie that plays like a dark, bloody, comedic version of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid set in modern times. Benecio Del Toro and Ryan Phillipe make a good pair of petty crooks who get in way over their heads when they kidnap the surrogate mother of a crime boss’s unborn child, and the real meat of the movie consists of some great shootouts and car chases, all of which feel gritty, sloppy and real. The final shootout (shot in the same location as the final scene of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) is quite the action spectacle and reminded me of the Mariachi series of films from Robert Rodriguez. There are some inspired moments, the chemistry between the main characters is good, and the opening scene where Sarah Silverman gets punched in the nose is a sight to behold. It’s not an amazing movie, but I appreciated everything it tried to do, and the handful of scenes that stood out to me REALLY stood out. Overall, a well-made film.
3.25 out of 5

See you next Sunday for three more thrilling short reviews!

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