Douglas Quaid is haunted by a recurring dream about a journey to Mars. He hopes to find out more about this dream and buys a holiday at Rekall Inc. where they sell implanted memories. But something goes wrong with the memory implantation and he remembers being a secret agent fighting against the evil Mars administrator Cohaagen. Now the story really begins and it’s a rollercoaster ride until the massive end of the movie.
Like much of director Paul Verhoeven’s other work, the movie is brutally violent, cleverly satirical and visually arresting. But beneath all the gloss, blood and bullets, lurks a film that’s actually about something. The movie keeps us on our toes – constantly blurring the line between reality and fantasy. We’re given a series of clues that despite what we’ve seen (Doug’s freakout at Rekall and the company’s refusal to ever acknowledge he even dropped in), lead us to believe that our hero may in fact be completely delusional. The director even uses a few visual motifs – a brunette counterpart and blue skies on Mars accompanied by a very curious fade-to-white at the film’s conclusion – to offset any audience certainty that Doug is in fact living the life of a secret agent man.
Further, the hyper-real violence – a bullet-ridden body repeatedly used as a human shield, rat viscera dripping down a computer screen, and a pair of arms messily torn from their sockets via elevator lift (just to name a few of the many) – only seem to drive home the point even further that Doug is experiencing less reality than over-exaggerated fantasy.
Made in the pre-CGI age, Rob Bottin’s incredible make-up effects are sensational. From his triple-breasted prostitute to a fat lady’s mechanically separating head, his work is as impressive to view now as it was twenty-two years ago. And while some of the miniatures look old-fashioned, nothing beats a tracking bug pulled from the nostril of a fake Arnold Schwarzenegger head.
While Schwarzenegger’s limitations as an actor make for a smattering of awkward emotional moments (read: cringe-worthy), his overall charisma and presence make up for the silly stuff. And while the gore is clearly there for stylistic purposes, its excessiveness tends to wear thin by the third act of the flick. But these are nitpicky. As a whole the film is fast, funny, vicious and one hell of a good time.
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