Doug Quaid is a happy man from a future Earth. He’s got a construction job that's kinda hard, but the reward is good, and anyway, he’s no wimp, he’s one gigantic ball of muscles. He also has a hi-tech apartment and a wonderful wife (the delightful Sharon Stone)... Oh, Quaid's a lucky bastard, only he doesn’t realise it. He keeps dreaming about the now colonised Mars and a mysterious brunette (Rachel Ticotin), and he longs to actually go there to satisfy his curiosity. He decides that the best thing to do is to pay a visit to Rekall, a travel agency that provides vacations through virtual reality. Unfortunately, things go awry and Quaid's peaceful life is blown to pieces, as he finds out that he's really a secret agent from Mars who was brainwashed. He must now go on a mission to the red planet, where he’ll have to sort out allies from foes through a world of corrupted authority figures and pissed off mutants out to start a revolution...
This is one of the most enjoyable science-fiction movies I’ve seen. Paul Verhoeven's filled his film with striking visuals and stunning special FX (even though they’ve aged a bit), but what puts it way ahead of most sci-fi (a genre often long winded) is that it's also action-packed, which is to be expected as it stars Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime. He's cool, tough and funny, and boy, he sure can break some fool in two! This film features a lot of really exciting fights and shoot-outs, all nicely photographed and edited, with lots of bone-crunching sound FX, a solid Jerry Goldsmith score, bright red blood and bad one-liners, everything you need from a Ah-nuld flick!
Ok, so I’m being quite the fanboy here, but I’ve got less shallow reasons for loving the picture. Watching it now especially, it seems even more ahead of its time with it’s altered-reality storyline. Before “The Matrix” and “Vanilla Sky” (or “Abre Los Ojos”), before “Memento” and “Waking Life”, there was “Total Recall”. Based on a short story by Philip K. Dick, the film maintains an ambiguity as to what’s real and what’s not. It could all be a dream as far as we know! Mmm. Maybe I’m reaching. I guess the film isn’t all that brainy after all, but just enough to add flavour to what’s certainly a satisfying action movie. It’s vintage Verhoeven, with over-the-top violence and plenty of grotesque touches, such as a three-breasted stripper, a machine gun toting midget and a deformed Siamese baby psychic!
Artisan Home Entertainment have released a “Total Recall” Special Edition DVD, most notable for its fancy red metal round box (Ooh! Like Mars!). It’s supposed to be packed with extras, but it turns out to not quite be the case. There’s not much to make of the Rekall Virtual Vacations, which only are 30 seconds bits of CGI animation, and the 5 minute long “Visions of Mars” featurette turns out to be just a little interview with some NASA guy. The disc does feature a few storyboards, some conceptual art, a reel of trailers and TV spots, a pretty interesting 30 minute documentary about the making of the film, and the audio commentary from hell, with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Paul Verhoeven apparently trying to see whether Austria or the Netherlands has the thickest accent, but in the age of overflowing 2-disc sets, this is rather meagre stuff. I kind of wish I’d only rented it instead of buying it. Mostly for fans.