Total Recall (1990)

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Paul Verhoeven directs Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sharon Stone and Michael Ironside in this hyper violent science fiction actioner about a construction worker who discovers his mind has been wiped and he is really a secret agent who is the only person who can liberate the planet Mars. Or is he?

Well… It is not Blade Runner, is it? Where as that sci fi classic was densely philosophical, crafted with care and adventurously expanded on its sophisticated Philip K Dick source material, Verehoven is quite happy here to just plunder the basic paranoid concept and build a rollercoaster ride of tits, gore and snappy one liners around it. The central mystery of whether Arnie is experiencing reality or that his lurid adventures are all in his lobotomised head is left credibly open, but that is merely smartly done rather than intelligently handled. A rorschach test for the viewer once they have calmed a little down off of the bloody squib high that the movie mainlines right into you. Let’s not pretend this any deeper than a film where a little person whore picks up a machine gun in a mining brothel and unleashes hell. Arnie conveys confused and angry really well. He’s truly mastered the snappy comeback at this point too (“Consider that a divorce!” “See you at the party, Richter!” WOO HOO, BABY!). Perfect big name cannon fodder meets top notch SFX. Slight criticisms: the action is a bit haphazard, the set design of Mars seems noticeably cheap compared to all the other quality satirical future world building in the first and last act. Who cares? By the time the trip is over, you get the girl, kill the bad guys, and save the entire planet. And a just before stardom Stone as Arnie’s untrustworthy wife absolutely rocks.

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