Let’s just get this right out of the way and say Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Total Recall, while an entertaining film was no great piece of American cinema, so I welcomed Len Wiseman’s efforts to give the Phillip K. Dick short story “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale” an update. I often grow tired of listening to people groan about remakes, and how they are unnecessary. Well take my “I review movies” t-shirt away, because here’s an unnecessary remake that I thought was kind of fun. Wiseman’s Total Recall is a well-made, and silly good time with some visually astounding action scenes.

The huge difference between the two films is that there’s no Mars in Wiseman’s version. It’s hundreds of years in the future and planet earth has become an inhabitable wasteland from nuclear war. The only civilization left is the United Federation of Britain (Why is England always the last man standing in post-fall out movies like this?), and a colony on the former Australia. The Federation controls society with an iron fist of oppression by the government with “The Fall” connecting them; a giant elevator travels through the earth’s core, which transports cheap labor from the colony to Britain.

The bulk of the story of memory and reality remains in tact surrounding the bewildered protagonist Douglas Quaid, this time around played by a stern Colin Farrell, a factory worker married to a gorgeous wife (Kate Beckinsale) who visits REKAL, a trippy company that implants memories into individuals who yearn to experience a life outside their depressing surroundings. He chooses to implant “real-life” memories of being a secret agent. The procedure goes terribly wrong when the police force barges in right before the memories are implanted. Quaid becomes public enemy number one of the Federation as he takes out the SWAT team that tries to capture him. When he returns home to his wife, he finds out he’s actually a Federation spy turned rebel fighter, who’s had all of his memories of his marriage, and life implanted into his brain. On the run from the law, controlled by Chancellor Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston), he can trust no one until he finds fellow rebel fighter Melina (Jessica Biel). Melina is working with the head of the underground resistance (Bill Nighy).

Part of the fun of Phillip K. Dick’s story is deciding whether Quaid’s experience is just the implanted memory or reality. Without too many spoilers let’s just say Wiseman has a clear cut vision of where the movie is going, and it isn’t concerned with too much besides creating outrageous action scenes. Yes, this is one of those action movies that has complicated set pieces that haven’t any logistical references whatsoever. One of these involves a fierce Beckinsale pursing Farrell and Biel while jumping on plunging building elevators.  Nothing about these action scenes makes one lick of sense, but I found myself too oddly immersed in them to really care about logistics.

Many would argue that this film doesn’t capture the over the top fun, and charm, of the utlra-violent original. True Wiseman strips down the material of much of it, but I enjoyed myself despite, and this is coming from someone who revels in many of Paul Verhoven’s shenanigans. Wiseman is very good at what he does as a director, which is making loud action movies. This film is quick paced, and goes from one action scene to another without a care in the world. The performances by Farrell, Biel and Beckinsale are not as heavy handed as the original. Then again, those in this newer cast are much stronger actors.  here are a few little winks to Verhoven’s original that almost play out as throwaway jokes. This film doesn’t have the poker face sense of humor of the original. The two are utterly different approaches to the material.

Despite all of its flaws of lacking charm, I still had a good time watching Totall Recall. What’s interesting here is the artistry and design put into the cities, and how they seamlessly fit into the action sequences. The world created for the film seems like a fully visually realized environment. Maybe I was just in the right mood going into it, but I was looking for a good loud action movie and that was just what I found.