Total Recall (1990) Directed by Paul Verhoeven. With Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sharon Stone, Michael Ironside, Rachel Ticotin and Ronny Cox.
This loose adaptation of the Philip K. Dick story, ‘We Can Remember It for You Wholesale‘, is a violent, fun-packed science-fiction roller coaster, that takes the thrust of the central idea of memory implantation and mind wipes, sets action icon Arnold Schwarzenegger centre stage and has Robocop director, Paul Verhoeven, behind the camera. On paper, it looks an odd recipe, in reality, it works an absolute treat.
Mention of a Philip K. Dick screen conversion immediately brings to mind Blade Runner, Ridley Scott’s seminal art-house head screw. Under producers Mario Kassar and Andrew G. Vajna though, Paul Verhoeven’s Total Recall is entirely different beast. Straight off, the casting of Schwarzenegger hints at a much lighter tone. Verhoeven uses this to his advantage, infusing a European aura into the DNA of the film – despite it being mostly populated by Canadian and US actors. Small tricks; the bored ‘Rekall‘ secretary who can alter the colour of her nail paint with the touch of a pen, the prostitute with three breasts, a taxi ride in a ‘Johnny Cab‘ – all these details, and more, contribute to a lasting impression by creating the idea of a world.
Aside from the presence of ideas everywhere you look, the visual effects of Total Recall are a treat. Rob Bottin, who famously oversaw the special effects for John Carpenter’s The Thing, delivers some suitably nightmarish creations, full of wit and invention that lock together with the feel of the film. Ronny Cox and Michael Ironside, as the two central villains of the piece, bring a vague comedic edge with their frantic rantings, while Sharon Stone displays some of that pre-Basic Instinct sex-appeal as Schwarzenegger’s wife, of sorts.
Although Paul Verhoeven openly admits that his relationship with science fiction was more of an accident, than any kind of career design, with RoboCop and Total Recall, (both now remade) his lasting influence on the genre has been felt far and wide. From Jerry Goldsmith’s memorable score, to the pulsating thrill of the action and a charismatic display from Schwarzenegger, Total Recall is a memory to keep. 4.5/5