Bill Nighy, what are you doing? You’re a classy English actor. I know Len Wiseman gave you a juicy part in Underworld, but that doesn’t mean you have to accept a non-role in his Total Recall remake (and one that requires you to fake an American accent, no less). Sure, your costar Kate Beckinsale signed on, but she’s the director’s wife; I imagine dinner conversations would get pretty awkward if she turned him down. And Bryan Cranston! You deserve better than yet another turn as a mustache-twirling villain (Ben Affleck’s Argo can’t hit theaters soon enough).
I wish I could offer more than bad jokes, but there’s honestly not much to say about Total Recall other than, “It’s a fun action flick.” With its numerous references to the Verhoeven/Schwarzenegger movie, it loses the right to call itself a separate adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s work; and while the production design is superb, the rain-lashed slums and speeding air traffic feel a tad too familiar. Wiseman builds an impressive cinematic world (“The Fall,” a massive transit system that shuttles workers through the Earth’s core, is a legitimately clever concept, and provides a pulse-pounding climactic set piece), but lacks Ridley Scott’s passion for mythic themes, Luc Besson’s sharp wit and sense of fun. Thus, his film contributes little to the sci-fi genre beyond more flying cars and a whole lot of elevator porn. Total Recall 2012 delivers solid thrills, but you can buy better memories.