The studio and filmmakers behind the new "re-imagining" of Total Recall have taken pains to say how different it was going to be from Arnold Schwarzenegger's 1990 musclebound Mars-fest.
But if you're a fan of Philip K. Dick, whose story We Can Remember It for You Wholesale is the template for both movies, let me disabuse you of any hope that this update would indulge the trippy "what is real" aspects of the story.
With Underworld's Len Wiseman at the helm? The guy who directs his movies by saying "Ready, set… GO!" instead of "Action"?
If fact, it's to his credit that the movie pauses for an "is this real?" moment once or thrice in two solid hours of chases and ass-kicking.
So there's that. This Total Recall is a pure action film that differs from its predecessor mainly in the total removal of Mars from its story, and an absence of Arnold-esque wisecracks (although when Farrell utters lines from the original like, "If I'm not me, then who am I?" I can't help but hear the Governator).
Still, it's not boring. If anything, this futuristic tale of an "ordinary Joe" factory worker named Doug Quaid -- whose true past is unearthed when he undergoes a mental vacation at a company called Rekall -- bolts off the starting blocks even faster than Paul Verhoeven's original. Quaid's wife (Kate Beckinsale) isn't his wife, but a lethal government operative who'll chase him through the movie like a Terminator.
Quaid himself is apparently a turncoat agent who's joined forces with anti-government rebels (and has had a romantic relationship with one of their better-looking soldiers, played by Jessica Biel).
The most impressive thing about the movie is arguably its set design. This future world is an environmental disaster area with only two livable zones -- a rich area called the United Federation of Britain and a grimy lumpenproletarian-filled, Asian-influenced Colony. Through a hole in the Earth called The Fall, the Colony sends menial workers to the Federation and brings them back again when the 5 o'clock whistle blows.
This means of transportation is impressively rendered, gravity switch and all. The "synthetic" police look a little like slimmed down Imperial Storm Troopers. Ultimately, the whole thing comes off as Blade Runner lite, but it's still decent sci-fi eye candy.
About the only character who could arguably be called better than his Arnold-era predecessor is Bryan Cranston, who plays the villain Cohaagen -- this courtesy of the lizard-eyed menace Cranston carries over from his starring role on TV's Breaking Bad.
Altogether, it makes for a noisy, 100-mile-an-hour action fest, perhaps a notch more mentally challenging than your average Jason Statham film.
This film is rated 14A