The second in a trilogy of Paul Verhoeven’s bloody, violent, and over-the-top futuristic action films (joining Robocop and Starship Troopers), Total Recall is a blast. Though it released in 1990, Recall carries the pieces of the ‘80s action movie with pride. It relishes and capitalizes on them with resounding success… and enormous entertainment value.
Arnold Schwarzenegger is Quaid, a character with a penchant for hilarious one-liners every time he kills someone. His memory is gone, or at least he thinks it is. The audience stays as confused as he is, and the open ending leaves the final result up to the viewer.
Traveling to a war-torn Mars colony, Quaid sees it all. Killer midgets, mutants, loads of gore, and futuristic car chases amp up the audience. Recall is a glorious chase movie, one loaded with fun and a solid mystery to keep everyone guessing. The layer of dark comedic absurdity keeps the tone light, giving the film a style that firmly lands this into Verhoeven’s lap.
Iconic special effects headed by Rob Bottin (brought back from his stint designing Robocop) include the undeniably classic X-ray chase, crazy animatronic freaks, and of course the gratuitous violence are all his doing. Miniature work on the surface of Mars is truly a sight to see, and various matte effects still hold up nearly 20 years later.
Loaded with action and enough of a story to carry a two-hour narrative, Total Recall is one of the ‘90s best sci-fi efforts. It also ranks highly amongst Verhoeven’s American efforts, and there’s little doubt this is amongst the best on Schwarzenegger’s Hollywood resume as well. It’s rare to have this much fun with something this violent.
Though it has its share of problems, Total Recall manages to look better than expected in HD. Colors are bright, certainly a step above the DVD efforts. They haven’t faded with age. Detail can be flat, though there’s certainly enough to compensate for the age of the film. Black levels are steady and consistent. Compression artifacts are a hindrance to any exterior shot of Mars, or those featuring the distinctive red sky. Grain is noticeable but under control.
Beefy explosions bring this compressed DTS-ES mix to life, especially after hearing some of the lower fidelity dialogue that begins the film. There are some unintentionally funny moments as Arnold punches foes, delivering a deeper shot of bass than most of the guns in the movie. Surround work is noticeable, though not consistent. The escalator shootout lacks any rear presence, while the bar battle is overloaded with all six channels finding work.
The only extra, aside from a promo for other Blu-ray discs, is a brief five-and-a-half minute piece on Mars. There’s nothing here about the visuals or the original Phillip K. Dick story it was based on.