Total Recall

Total Recall ★★★★

A fascinating rewatch, enough to make one terribly nostalgic for real sets, practical effects, and big-budget R-rated action. This film absolutely traumatized me as a kid, and so certain scenes that would play as (at least) a bit silly were I watching them now for the first time--the big fight between Sharon Stone and Rachel Ticotin; Mel Johnson Jr. removing his glove to reveal a weird mutant appendage; the three boobs--carry, for me, a tinge of primal terror that will probably never go away. Even without that, Verhoeven's surreal mix of understated humor, graphic violence, and a dead-serious sci-fi story is something to behold, and I think his genius lay in creating that brew without ever remotely winking or sneering at Philip K. Dick's ideas. The only problem, from my perspective, is that while Arnold Schwarzenegger's casting adds a touch of the uncanny that reinforces the film's beguiling strangeness, it also makes impossible the ambiguity Verhoeven attempts to maintain: it never for a second feels plausible that Quaid is really an everyman construction worker.