Total Recall (1990) starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rachel Ticotin, Sharon Stone, Ronny Cox, Michael Ironside, Marshall Bell, Mel Johnson Jr. directed by Paul Verhoeven Movie Review

Total Recall (1990)   4/54/54/54/54/5

Arnold Schwarzenegger as Douglas Quaid in Total Recall

Schwarzenegger has Strife on Mars

On one level "Total Recall" is a typical Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, he gets plenty of corny dialogue, there is plenty of action for him to show his muscular physique and there is a sense of humour to it, well there is a woman with 3 breasts. But then "Total Recall" is not a no brainer movie, it has a storyline and one which toys with the audience because thanks to the concept of memory implants you are left wondering whether what you are watching is really happening to Arnie's character or a fantasy dream thanks to a memory implant. It's clever stuff and well balanced by director Paul Verhoeven because from the moment that Doug Quaid visits Rekall to take a virtual trip to Mars you are constantly questioning whether it is part of the memory implant or not but at the same time it is full of action. As such whilst "Total Recall" is not Schwarzenegger's best movie it does end up one of the most entertaining.

Construction worker Doug Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger - Predator) is haunted by a dream he keeps having about the planet Mars, so much so that he goes against his friends and wife's wishes and visits Rekall where they can implant memories into your brain. Sold on having an implant of a vacation on Mars Quaid also decides that he would like to be a secret agent in his memory implant. But during the procedure something appears to go wrong and Quaid now has no idea of whether what he is experiencing is real or not, but what he does know is that he needs to get to Mars and take on evil administrator Cohaagen (Ronny Cox - Beverly Hills Cop II).

Sharon Stone as Lori in Total Recall

"Total Recall" is inspired by a short story written by Philip K. Dick and creates this storyline which intentionally blurs what is real and what is fantasy in the world of Doug Quaid. It's entertaining stuff because throughout the entire movie you are caused to question what is real and what isn't. One minute you think that it is part of the memory implant the next something happens you think well maybe it isn't and it toys with you throughout throwing clues at you which make you question what you think. It's not the most solid of storylines and the whole idea of issues on the planet Mars cause by a tyrannical business man keeping something secret is in fact full of plot holes. But in many ways the problems on Mars is just there to provide the platform for all the blurring of reality and memory.

What is impressive is throughout the movie you are lead to question whether things are real or not but then director Paul Verhoeven also manages to bring in enough action without ever causing it to over crowd the storyline. The action itself is a blend of the typical with some generic muscle bound action for Arnie to flex his muscles but also some clever moments. The action scene featuring the walking x-ray machine may be a little cheesy but it works as you watch skeletons walk along a conveyor belt. And it is this element of cleverness which makes the action more interesting than just being all muscle bound fun. In fact when you think about "Total Recall" it is the inspired, often corny action, which you remember such as the bug extraction through the nose or the exploding woman's head.

Now for some the element of being corny may spoil "Total Recall" but for me it actually makes it more fun. The constant stream of cheesy dialogue which Arnie has to deliver is simply amusing for being so bad and such things like the Johnny Cabs with their annoying robot drivers is just fun. And even the quirky elements such as the mutants which live on Mars, such as Kuato and the woman with 3 breasts just bring more smiles and laughs. But these laughs don't end up spoiling "Total Recall" but make it better because it embraces being a little bit cheesy rather than just trying to take itself too seriously.

Now one thing is for sure and "Total Recall" is certainly a movie in Arnold Schwarzenegger's comfort zone and there is nothing in the movie which stretches the muscular actor. So what we get from Arnie as Douglas Quaid is a typical Arnie performance, the muscle bound action, the almost joy at delivering corny dialogue and just a sense that he had fun playing this action figure. Yes Arnie is wooden, and those supposedly sexy scenes between Arnie and Sharon Stone, who plays his wife Lori, at the start of the movie are some of the cheesiest in the entire movie but "Total Recall" is nothing more than a fun, sometimes clever action movie. And whilst "Total Recall" also sees the likes of Ronny Cox, Rachel Ticotin and Michael Ironside in various roles it is really a movie which works because of Arnie.

What this all boils down to is that "Total Recall" is not a great movie but it is a very entertaining one. Yes it is corny, with plenty of cheesy dialogue and over the top action but it works with Arnold Schwarzenegger delivering a very comfortable performance, seeming to enjoy the constant stream of cheesy dialogue he has to deliver. But it is the whole storyline about the memory implant and the constant blurring as to whether it is real or just a fantasy which makes it so entertaining and causes you to try and work out what is really happening.