Friday, May 29, 2009

Film Review: TOTAL RECALL (1990, Paul Verhoeven)

Stars: 5 of 5.
Running Time: 113 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Ironside, Ronny Cox, Sharon Stone, co-writer Dan O'Bannon (ALIEN, DEAD & BURIED), loose adaptation of Philip K. Dick short story ""We Can Remember It For You Wholesale."
Tag-lines: "They stole his mind, now he wants it back."
Best one-liner: "Who gives a shit what you believe? In thirty seconds you'll be dead, and I'll blow this place up and be home in time for Corn Flakes." or maybe just "See you at the pahhhh-ty, Richter!"

"If I am not me, den who da hell am I?" TOTAL RECALL boldly dares to ask (and answer) the fateful questions, A. "What kind of films would Hitchcock be making if he was alive in 1990?" and B. "What would those films be like if he was taking a dangerous mix of uppers and downers?" Make no mistake, however, this candy-colored insanity is a bona fide masterpiece on a number of levels and a true example (like ROBOCOP) of Verhoeven at the peak of his powers. The special effects are immaculate. There's true cinematic wonder on display, with a real attention to detail and craftsmanship that disappeared with the advent of CGI-only FX. Schwarzenegger has rarely been more likable, and he truly exudes pathos in "the wrong man" (or maybe "wrong mind?") role.

It's a larger-than-life film that calls for larger-than-life acting, and Schwarzenegger's rubbery mug (which is frequently indistinguishable from the wacky prosthetics) is the perfect template upon which to unfold such a tale.

Like the best of Euro-action cinema, this is a movie of over-the-top violence, intense staredowns that defy reality, and a parade of extraordinarily memorable moments (from the Johnnycab inferno to the three-breasted hooker to Arnold's redunkulous muu-muu'd housewife disguise) which stuck in the craws of impressionable kids for decades to come.

Michael Ironside seems to have eaten crazy for breakfast before filming his scenes here, and, as always, he's a vein-bustin' delight to watch.

And like the best of Lynch and Cronenberg, Verhoeven reserves for his villains the most graphic, jaw-dropping fates imaginable- viscerally cathartic to the MAX.

And if you'd like to try a TOTAL RECALL drinking game, try a drink every time someone's eyes are literally bulging outside of their head AND every time someone must hang onto to something, lest they be blown into the vacuum of space.

Of course if you do that, you just might end up with an identity crisis on par with Quaid and Hauser. Five lunatic stars.

-Sean Gill

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