Brian Henry Martin at the movies

Has Colin Lost His Mind?

Published Thursday, 30 August 2012
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Well his latest character certainly has, Doug Quaid, a mind-bending role made famous by Arnold Schwarzenegger back in the 1990's.

This is Colin Farrell as a buffed up action hero starring in a new but old science fiction blockbuster.

So why is this big budget remake of Total Recall a total mess?

Total Recall starts with Colin Farrell having a bad dream. Tossing and turning in his sweat ridden bed, feeling trapped, anxious and alone. In years to come that's indeed how he may look upon this almighty nightmare of a movie.

Though Farrell is convincing as ordinary factory worker Doug, who despite a dull job and beautiful but dull wife (played by Kate Beckinsdale) dreams of another exciting life. It's the end of the 21st century, chemical warfare has devastated the planet, but in one of earth's remaining zones, the UFB (United Federation of Britain), dreams can come true.

Well, they can be implanted into your brain, for a price at Rekall, a mind-bending fun factory. "Tell us your fantasy" Doug is instructed "and we will make it a memory." Unfortunately, Doug wants to be Jason Bourne and chooses the secret agent package, which causes all hell to break loose as he really is a secret agent. Soon he is the most wanted man in the future with no past. He has no memory of who he was and at this stage in the plot neither do I.

Needless to say there is a cosmic container load of high-tech chases, cyber shoot-outs, sincere but pointless dialogue followed by more high-tech chases and cyber shoot-outs.

Filling the shoes of Arnold Schwarzenegger should fill any actor with fear but not Colin Farrell, who jumps head first into the role, or should that be face first.

He has been burnt by blockbusters before, most notably the Macedonian mega-turkey that was Alexander back in 2004. Since then, he has flourished not in the mainstream but in a series of quirky independent pictures, playing not action roles but tortured souls. Think of guilt-stricken hit man Ray hiding out in Martin McDonagh's classic black comedy In Bruges or lonely fisherman Syracuse who catches a beautiful young woman in his net in Neil Jordan's modern fairy tale Ondine. These are the award winning roles that have made Colin Farrell a great actor. Sadly, Total Recall will not enhance his reputation but may elevate his box office star.

The same cannot be said of Kate Beckinsale, who is completely miscast as Lori Quaid, a role originally played by the sassy Sharon Stone. Beckinsale is laughable as the kick ass vengeful wife with clipped Brit accent, high-heeled boots and flouncy hair. Not since War Horse has a mane of hair swished as much on screen. Surely the character should look like she just walked out of a saloon not a salon?

Jessica Biel fares no better in another bland performance as romantic interest and rebel fighter Melina, but at least has the decency to tie her mane up. Though raising the biggest smile was the casting of terrorist leader Matthias, a man feared throughout the colony. Who do you think? Surely Ray Winstone? No, it's loveable old Bill Nighy, who's as much Che Guevara as Ronnie Corbett.

Director Len Wiseman can't decide whether he's remaking Total Recall, Blade Runner, The Bourne Identity or all three in a total blade identity mess.

"I can't remember who I was but I know who I am" says Colin Farrell at the end of this forgettable remake. Let's hope for all our sakes, Colin does remember who he was, one of Ireland's finest actors, and forgets futuristic blockbusters and gets back to doing what he does best, working with great directors again.

Total Recall (Cert 12a) is now on general release.

© UTV News
B. H. Martin
B. H. Martin

Brian Henry Martin is an accomplished documentary filmmaker and UTV's resident film critic, appearing regularly on UTV Live Tonight.

No matter what the film, there's a good chance Brian has seen it.


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