Total Recall (1990) Review

Director: Paul Verhoeven

Genre(s): Action, Science-Fiction, Thriller

Runtime: 113 minutes

MPAA Rating: R

IMDb Page

Three years after his RoboCop (1987), another sci-fi-action film directed by Paul Verhoeven hit the big screen: the Arnold Schwarzenegger action-thriller Total Recall. This imaginative what-is-real-and-what-is-not? motion picture lives up to its reputation as an excellent mind-bender. Set in the distant future, construction worker Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger) decides to have memories of a vacation to Mars he’s apparently never taken implanted into his brain…and things go wrong from there…or do they?

Total Recall benefits from a musical score from Jerry Goldsmith that’s simultaneously classy, muscular, and urgent-sounding. It’s a darkly comedic (even satirical, at times) ride, and pacing is never really an issue. A big shout-out goes to the film’s wild, glorious (and often grotesque) special effects. They really make it seem like anything is possible with practical effects (and a big enough budget).

This movie has no shortage of action, but it’s a bit of a mixed bag here. The orchestration of the action scenes is pretty average by Arnie standards (with the notable exception of their generously-pouring blood squibs), but the characters do look mighty cool when jumping through glass in slow-motion. The non-stop chasing also means the flick loses some “weight” when it needs it. Okay, the action isn’t as immaculately choreographed as it is in Commando (1985), but does it need to be?

Total Recall might surprise Schwarzenegger skeptics with its wit and clever plotting. It may not be high art, but this action flick’s got brains. The Austrian Oak’s made some great science-fiction movies over the years, and this is one of them. It’s a wildly over-the-top film, but it knows it, winking at the audience occasionally, but not enough for it to be a genuine comedy.

My rating is 8 outta 10.

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