Total Recall

Year: 1990
Production Co: Carolco
Studio: Columbia
Director: Paul Verhoeven
Writer: Phillip K Dick/Ronald Shusett/Dan O'Bannon/Jon Povill/Gary Goldman
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sharon Stone, Ronny Cox, Rachel Ticotin, Michael Ironside, Marshall Bell

Look no further for an example of Hollywood at work. What began as a parable about mankind using technology to hijack and subjugate the most human of functions (experience and memory) morphed into a popcorn-flavoured big screen sci-fi blockbuster.

Alien scribes Shusset and O'Bannon shepherded Phillip K Dick's novel We Can Remember It For You Wholesale to the screen, no doubt via a bunch of script doctors and slam-bang specialists appointed by Carolco and Schwarzenegger, and the result is one of the guiltiest Arnie pleasures.

Quaid (Schwarzenegger) is a construction worker in the future with a smoking hot wife (Stone at her most beautiful) but who's haunted by dreams of a visit to Mars and an enigmatic brunette (Ticotin).

Convinced there's something in his past he can't remember, Quaid goes on a digital holiday at Rekall, the virtual reality merchants who provide full sensory experiences from the comfort of an armchair.

The trip sends Quaid into a violently crazed paranoia and after they manage to knock him out they dumps him before he remembers what's happened. When his co-workers and then his wife attack him, Quaid realises he's not crazy, and goes to Mars to learn the truth, overturning a vast conspiracy where ruthless Martian settlement administrator Cohaagen (Cox) keeps the people under his thumb by manipulating the air supply.

Even worse, Quaid finds out his hot wife is a plant to keep an eye on him, his entire life an implanted dream. He's actually Hauser, one of Cohaagen's best standover men, the mysterious brunette his former lover.

They team up and seek out the mutant psychic resistance, and when Quaid learns the whole operation was a trick to lead Cohaagen to the resistance undetected, he decides he doesn't want to be his old self. Having inadvertently blown the cover of the resistance, it's up to Quaid to find and switch on the massive air production facility left behind by aliens millennia before.

Verhoeven's always had a nose for Hollywood action, and here Columbia manages to keep his natural taste for kinky sex mostly in check for a PG audience. The effects and aesthetic don't really stand up in the Avatar era, but it's still good fun.

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