Total Recall

1990 / VHS

SF elements

memory alteration

Somewhat loosely based on Philip K. Dick 's 1966 short story "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale"


[getting a head] Douglas Quaid [Arnold Schwarzenegger] has a steady job, a loving wife [Sharon Stone], and a nice apartment -- until he decides to buy a holiday-memory of Mars. The memories don't take, and then everyone -- his workmates, his wife, strangers -- starts trying to kill him. He has no idea why, until he gets a message from his earlier self to go to Mars, and meet up with the freedom fighters and an unremembered lover [Rachel Ticotin].

[bad trip] Lots of plot twists (how do you distinguish reality from false memories?), lots of action, lots and lots of bloodily violent battles (unlike the rather bloodless The Matrix , here machine pistols, drills, axes, and even fists, leave lots of gorily dead bodies strewn over two planets), and some imaginative special effects (particularly the unwrapping head) make this Verhoeven film a fun way to spend an evening with a box of popcorn, spoilt only by the utterly ludicrous resolution (scientifically wrong for so many reasons it's not worth even beginning to explain).

Rating: 3.5

[ unmissable | great stuff | worth watching | mind candy | waste of time | unfinishable ]

retrospectively reviewed 9 April 2000