Total Recall (USA, 1990)

total_recall_1990_posterDirected by: Paul Verhoeven. I could have SWORE that when I saw The Running Man for the first time, it was within the last year, and that I’d made a review for it, but I can’t find it anywhere. The reason I bring it up is that a lot of my thoughts on this film were carried over from that film, but maybe I’m just crazy. I’m trying to keep up on all of the great 80’s and 90’s uber-macho action movies that I just never got around to seeing in my childhood (I was pretentious even then, apparently). I do have a rough familiarity with the amazing Paul Verhoeven, though. I saw Starship Troopers as a kid, and I saw Robocop in a Film Studies class (actually). His style is so outrageously ridiculous, yet his films always have little structural undercurrents of social criticism, and it’s actually pretty intelligent most of the time. The caveat here, of course, is that the film is never about the social topic underpinning the film; the film is always actually about shooting and running and explosions and spectacle. With this film, it’s about watching Arnie getting into farflung situations, running around mid-to-low budget sci-fi sets, saying ridiculous lines of dialogue and twisting his face into those irresistibly absurd, grotesque contortions that he’s so good at. My enjoyment of Arnie is perhaps little more than holier-than-thou ironic judgement—I find him to be extremely funny in almost everything he does, almost every minute of screentime. But when he does something like this, something that has a pretty damn thought-provoking, straight up compelling (maybe even doggone excellent) story like this one, all of that extreme, absurdist, cartoon macho shit that Arnie exudes is just all the more entertaining. I could watch this movie over and over and over again. It’s Arnie doing a Philip K. Dick story! How can you go wrong? I haven’t read the story, but I’m sure the bit with the mutants and the alien bones and the machine melting the water to create atmosphere, thereby saving our heroes’ heads from exploding at the last second, was all tacked on by the filmmakers. The parts that scream Philip K. Dick are all of those legitimately intriguing layers about identity—falsity and truth, fake idenitites, etc. Dick’s own drug-fueled paranoia is screaming at you in those parts where the whole world turns against the hero. He can’t even trust his wife, Sharon Stone, because she’s actually a deadly spy acting as his wife, paid by a giant corporation to keep him quiet because he knows too much. His insane delusions about being an important spy on Mars are actually true! And in the end, he can’t even trust himself—the video messages left for him by himself before his memory was wiped and his new identity was created, etc. If you can’t even trust yourself, what the fuck, right? Might as well shoot your way through the story, talk to that gross muppet on the guy’s stomach, and live happily ever after with your dream girl and a bunch of mutants (not to mention a midget whore—remember the midget whore?). What an absolute gem of a movie. I’ll get around to seeing the remake eventually, but could it ever be this good? The era that this movie belongs to is resolutely over, I’d say. This kind of camp isn’t really allowed to coexist alongside anything remotely intelligent or substantive. That’s why Verhoeven was kind of a genius, and why this film is one of the most entertaining things made in the last 50 years.

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2 responses to “Total Recall (USA, 1990)

  1. Pingback: List of Judgements, Anno Domini 2013 | Offhand Reviews·

  2. Pingback: Predator (USA, 1987) | Offhand Reviews·

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