Like 1982’s Blade Runner, 1990’s Total Recall is based on a story by acclaimed science fiction writer, Philip K. Dick. However, a dystopian futuristic setting, and similar source material is probably the only common ground the two movies share, as the intellectual and philosophical weight of the former is largely jettisoned in the latter for a more violent, action-packed romp. This is, after all, a movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and directed by Paul Verhoeven and it plays to the relative strengths of both. Which is not to say that there isn’t an element of the intellectual within the story – it is conceptually quite intriguing and there is an underlying satire to the movie – but if your expectation of a Schwarzenegger movie is that he’ll run around beating people up and shooting people then you won’t go far wrong with Total Recall. Equally if you think of Verhoeven movies as often being exceptionally violent and gratuitous, then this certainly doesn’t disappoint.
Indeed, the violence is often extreme and probably not necessary, as the movie would have plenty to offer without all the blood and guts. It’s not fair to compare it to Blade Runner, most sci fi films come up short in that regard, but Total Recall is far from the worst Philip K. Dick adaptation out there.
Schwarzenegger demonstrates that, if no-one could ever accuse him of being the finest actor of his generation, he absolutely knows what he is good at and he does it particularly well in this movie. So well, in fact, that I was actually able to suspend my disbelief that a man with such a strong Austrian accent could possibly be called Douglas Quaid. Which, as it turns out, I didn’t need to because apparently he’s actually called Carl Hauser, which totally works as an Austrian person’s name. Although it does beg the question why, when deciding upon an assumed identity, he would ever have thought that Douglas Quaid would work.
It’s a minor gripe in truth and does nothing to detract from the enjoyment of the movie. If you can stomach excessive violence, albeit within the context of nineties visual effects, then Total Recall is definitely worth revisiting.