Justin’s Movie Reviews Episode II: Total Recall

Holy shit.

1990 was an AWESOME year for movies.

1990 Movies
Ghost Home Alone Pretty Woman Dances with Wolves
Goodfellas Back to the Future Part III Die Hard 2 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Kindergarten Cop Misery Tremors The Hunt for Red October
Ernest Goes to Jail Dick Tracy Another 48 Hrs. Robocop 2
Days of Thunder The Freshman Presumed Innocent Problem Child
Death Warrant Marked for Death Night of the Living Dead The Rescuers Down Under
Rocky V Predator 2 The Godfather Part III House Party

That’s a “holy fucking shit” list of movies, man!

But there’s one movie – just one – that still sort of sits in our mind from that year. It’s none other than Total Recall. I’m obviously talking about the original and not the 2012 knockoff that starred Colin Farrell, Jessica Biel, and Kate Beckinsale in the first movie she ever did that wasn’t about vampires or someone named Selene. How great were those Underworld movies, though?! Whew, flawless.

Anyways, let’s get to this movie because we need to talk about several things in here. I’m going to bore everyone with the semi-full plot details like I sort of did with the Road House movie review that I did the other day. After, we’re going to discuss a few of the key moments. We need to. After all, it’s an exquisite piece of cinematic artwork.

Can we all just agree that Arnold Schwarzenegger is the greatest and most accomplished action film star in the history of movies? Good, I’m glad we were able to get that out of the way right away. By the time this movie rolled around in 1990, he’d already starred in Conan the Barbarian, Conan the Destroyer, The Terminator, Commando, Predator, and Running Man. If those were the only six movies he ever did in his life, he’d be a stud. Instead, he gave us this greatness.

The story of Total Recall is simply that Douglas Quaid, played by Schwarzenegger, has this totally normal life with a totally normal wife, but he keeps dreaming about this other woman and being on Mars. He goes to this place called Rekall. They specialize in memory implants – mostly for vacations and stuff like that. Basically, you can get a memory implanted that feels totally real and you get to brag to your friends about what a badass you were for doing all these awesome things that you never really did because you’re a worthless piece of trash who cares more about what someone thinks about you rather than actually being your own person.

After things go a tad haywire at the place, he makes it back to his home with no memory of what happened only to get jumped by a few guys he knows. He kills them, goes into his house, tells his wife, played by Sharon Stone, and then she attacks him before he beats the shit out of her in self-defense. He then goes on the run. Someone leaves a briefcase for him, and it contains a whole bunch of crap. It includes a video he left himself, a pair of futuristic pliers he jams up his nose, and some other information.

He ends up making it all the way to Mars, meets up with a taxi driver who later turns on him named Benny, and the chick from the dream, Melina. The main bad guy in the film is a dude named Vilos Cohaagen, played by Ronny Cox. In case you don’t know who Ronny Cox is, he’s the douchebag guy from RoboCop. So, yeah, you already knew he was a real pile of horse manure the first minute you saw him back in 1990. He’s a real vindictive prick in this movie, too. He basically hordes the atmosphere in Mars so that he can suffocate the mutants whenever he wants. Cohaagen is basically Donald Trump if the Cheeto-in-chief ruled a planet. Oh shit, he kinda does.

After a long story arc where Quaid ends up killing his pseudo-wife – oh, yeah, so Sharon Stone wasn’t really Schwarzenegger’s wife in this, but rather an agent planted by Cohaagen to keep Quaid in check since he was going through some memory wipe type shit – and then getting revenge on the two-timing-tax-driver by jamming a drill directly into the side of Benny, we get to the final confrontation between Cohaagen and Quaid. There’s some alien atmospheric reactor thing, and Cohaagen tries to blow it up with a bomb but Quaid tosses the bomb away and saves the reactor.

Cohaagen gets sucked outside and dies a very violent and hilarious death while Quaid activates the little alien reactor thingy before he and Melina get sucked outside themselves. Now, they don’t die because the reactor changes the atmosphere fast enough for them to live but not fast enough for Cohaagen to live. It’s very convenient when you think about it. That’s just how shit works in the 90s. At the end, Quaid and Melina are overlooking everything and you can tell there’s a very interesting thing Quaid is thinking, and Melina and Quaid live happily ever after.


This is where the very interesting thing Quaid was thinking comes into play. He was wondering if it was really a dream or actually reality. Now, in the very beginning of the movie, we’re given a scene of Quaid and Melina on Mars. It’s them two in space suits just chilling there before Quaid slips and falls down the side of the mountain. He cracks his mask, the air gets in, and he dies. In the ending, though, he and Melina are standing in pretty much the exact spot he saw in his dream, but rather than being in a space suit, he’s just in his regular clothes since the atmosphere got changed.

The reason this is all interesting is because throughout various points of the movie, we’re led to believe that it’s possible that Quaid might actually be living in a Rekall fantasy. Essentially, it means that none of what we were watching was actually real and it was just all for show. It gives him a nice little story he gets to tell whenever it is he actually wakes up – if he in fact does wakeup at all. There’s just no way of knowing if it was actually a dream or reality.

When you really break it down to its basic level, Total Recall was basically just Inception before that movie came along. It had a dream-state premise that was meant to mind fuck the audience into not being able to differentiate between what actually was the legitimate reality and what was just a plausible dream scenario. We all have our own ideas about what was reality and what was dream, but there’s no assured way of knowing which was which.

At the end of the day, both sides are equally right and both sides are equally wrong. It was all a dream for Quaid and it was all reality. For the audience, it felt real, but just because it felt real doesn’t mean it actually was real. In essence, we all got boned but it was a good boning. It was a three-boobed-lady-in-the-bar boning. You want to know why I think it was all a dream, though? Because if it were reality, Michael Ironside (Richter) would have killed someone important. He didn’t kill a single person worth a damn in that movie. Can’t have a secondary archenemy without him killing someone worth a shit in the movie. That’s why it wasn’t reality.


Arnold Schwarzenegger dressed up as a woman in 1990, and it was dope.

So there’s the scene where Quaid arrives on Mars after removing the tracking device from his nostril, and in it he’s dressed as some lady. The only god damn line the disguise can actually say is, “Two weeks.” That’s it. Nothing else. Anyways, the automatronic head he’s wearing – or whatever it is – starts to malfunction, and the security personnel in the place begin to take notice.

As everything is going on and attention is being brought to him, Quaid just starts to remove the god damn head in front of everyone. The reason this moment is so kickass is because it was 1990 and they legitimately made a run at something this cool looking. Look at the way the head comes off in sections, just one after the other. Sure, Schwarzenegger looks like a wax figure that’s melting in the Las Vegas sun, but we can overlook that here. It’s a sweet as hell part of the movie.


It was an extremely close race, but Cohaagen’s death wins.

The only other death that was up for this consideration was Benny getting drilled through the side of the excavation machine as Schwarzenegger yells, “Screw you!” But the Cohaagen death wins because (a) it’d be an insanely fucking painful way to die and (b) look at the powerhouse acting skills on display in this amazing scene. Ronny Cox acted his geriatric ass off in this death scene, and we need to praise him to high heaven for it.

And not to be outdone, but look at the detail of the death. The eyes are bulging out of the sockets, the tongue just comes flying out of the mouth before quivering to the side, and the final gasp for air doesn’t matter as the bones just crack and Cohaagen dies. This is quite easily the worst possible death in the movie, and I’d far rather get drilled in the side to death than have to suffocate while my eyes bulge out of my head. I think we all would. So this wins.


They really took “till death do us part” extremely seriously.

I feel like Schwarzenegger and Stone could have been a real powerhouse couple in this movie, but it just wasn’t meant to be. As Quaid and Melina are captured and being taken away by Lori, played by Sharon Stone, a little scuffle ensues between the three parties. Melina and Lori are fighting, and Quaid picks up a gun. Lori immediately begins to openly taunt Quaid about how she’s his wife and he wouldn’t ever do anything to harm her. Well, while doing so, Lori attempts to pull a gun on Quaid. So, he just shoots her right between the eyes.

That’s when this absolutely superb line gets delivered by Schwarzenegger. Now, we all know that he’s no stranger to letting off iconic one-liner after iconic one-liner, but this one truly belongs in his personal Hall of Fame. He literally stands over his dead pseudo-wife and then openly taunts her in front of his crush. This is a true hero in every sense. He should have won the Best Actor award for this line alone. It’s top notch stuff. I wonder if he collects life insurance after her death.


Benny was seven pounds of shit in a five pound bag, but bless him for this.

When it was all said and done, Benny was a double agent for Cohaagen. He turned on Quaid and Melina the first chance he got, which ended up getting Kuato killed. Before you ask who the hell Kuato was, it really doesn’t matter. He was some mind-reading mutant attached to some dude’s stomach that told Quaid how to activate the reactor. He was fucking forgettable and it was really lame. Anyways, Benny turns in all three of them and gets his in the end when Quaid drills into Benny’s side to kill him.

But, before his death and backstabbing, Benny was actually a pretty funny character. The funniest moment, when he wasn’t talking about his four or five kids, occurred when he dropped Quaid off to meet Melina for the first time. He’s seen in the bar talking to the three-breasted woman, and he’s just being a total perv. He’s caressing each breast, and then he blurts out the famous line up above. Benny, we’ve all been there.

There’s a lot to be said about Total Recall, but the number one thing is probably that it has major re-watch value attached to it since it really will mess with your mind the whole time. Is he dreaming or is he in reality? We’ll never know, and I think that’s the best part about the movie when you actually watch it. The sheer fact that you have no idea at the end as to what’s real and what’s not just makes you appreciate it that much more.

While a few of the characters lacked overall depth, the whole thing was fun. And it’s just peak Schwarzenegger. It’s impossible to find a better action star than him, and this movie showcased his overall prowess as an actor when you factor in the one-liners, action sequences, and ability to draw your attention to the screen whenever he was on it.

The movie had a 113 minute runtime, so plop your ass down and watch it as soon as you can. No excuse not to.

If you don’t, we’ll have to track you down. That is, unless you can remove the tracker in time.