Tag Archives: Paul Verhoeven

Total Recall (1990) Review

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Total Recall (1990)

Time: 156 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] contains violence and offensive language
Cast:
Arnold Schwarzenegger as Douglas Quaid
Rachel Ticotin as Melina
Sharon Stone as Lori
Ronny Cox as Vilos Cohaagen
Michael Ironside as Richter
Director: Paul Verhoeven

Douglas Quaid tries to find the reason behind his recurring dream about Mars. He soon learns that a false memory has been planted into his brain and the people responsible for this want him dead.

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I remembered watching the original Total Recall for the first time ago many years ago when I was younger. I remember enjoying it with all the action, over the top violence, and one liners. More recently I decided to revisit it. Watching it again when I’m much older, it’s even better than I was remembered it to be.

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Based on a Phillip K. Dick novel called We Remember It For You Wholesale, Total Recall is well put together and fun to watch. It moves at a fast pace, there’s a decent amount of comedy and has plenty of quotable lines, in fact some of the best from an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie. There’s plenty of parts that are silly and over the top, but there is a real self-awareness to the ridiculousness, so it makes it all the more better. I also was consistently entertained by a story which takes its twists and turns and does its world building in such an effective way.  There’s even a psychological aspect with lead character Quaid not knowing what’s real or not, or who he can trust. As a sci-fi action flick it’s really good, but its even more than that. Director Paul Verhoeven brings his trademark satirical approach to this story, like how he did with Robocop. The satire is loud, in your face and quite fitting. As to be expected especially given this is the 80s/90s, the movie takes jabs at capitalism and corporate greed, but also colonialism.

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The cast are also quite good all round. Arnold Schwarzenegger plays the main character of Douglas Quaid in one of his best performances. As usual he is good in the action scenes and the cheesy one liners, but also does a good job at being genuine, and this is one of the few times he isn’t playing the typical hardcore action hero. Some have found him to be out of place in the movie and while I can see that especially given that he’s meant to be playing the everyman, I just can’t imagine the movie without him. He somehow just fits in with the tone and vibe that Verhoeven is going for. Other supporting actors like Sharon Stone and Rachael Ticotin are good, and Michael Ironside and Ronny Cox make for enjoyable scene chewing villains.

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Total Recall is directed by Paul Verhoeven, and he brings a lot of his style and energy to this movie. I really like the cinematography and look of the film, I loved the environments and the production design is great. The amount of practical effects on display are amazing, and most of it holds up today. There are even parts that venture into body horror. The special effects can be cheesy in a late 80s and early 90s way, but I feel like that fitted the overall tone of the movie that Verhoeven is going for. I really like the portrayal of the future, some of the technology can be clunky but even that is endearing. The action sequences are energetic, exciting and imaginative. Verhoeven’s trademark over the top and gory violence is on display and it is glorious to watch. Adding on top of all of that is the amazing score by Jerry Goldsmith.

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Total Recall is a wonderfully entertaining and over the top 90s action sci-fi thriller. The cast are good, the writing is fun, satirical and self-aware, and Paul Verhoeven’s direction and style are amazing. It’s even a strong contender for Arnold Schwarzenegger’s best movie yet, up there with the first two Terminator films at the very least. If you are a fan of action and/or sci-fi, I highly recommend checking it out.

RoboCop (1987) Review

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Robocop

Time: 102 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Graphic violence
Cast:
Peter Weller as Alex Murphy/RoboCop
Nancy Allen as Anne Lewis
Daniel O’Herlihy as The Old Man
Ronny Cox as Dick Jones
Kurtwood Smith as Clarence Boddicker
Miguel Ferrer as Bob Morton
Director: Paul Verhoeven

In a dystopic and crime-infested Detroit, a terminally injured policeman (Peter Weller) returns to the force as a potent cyborg haunted by submerged memories.

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RoboCop was a classic action sci-fi movie from the 1980s. 34 years later, it remains not only a staple for iconic 1980s action films, but also one of the most intelligent and satirical, and it surprisingly holds up all these years later.

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RoboCop could’ve been dismissed as enjoyable action fare from the 80s, but categorising this film as just a B-level action movie doesn’t do it justice. In fact, oncoming years have only allowed the value of the film to become clearer than ever. It is one of the most intelligent B-movies, flawlessly blending sharp satire and grand sci-fi action. RoboCop is a smart and sharply written satire of America’s warped, violent culture of vanity and the state of said culture. It lashes out at the division between the rich and the poor alongside the growing industrialism running rampant across the screen. It also covers Reagan era economics, corporate privatization of public services, corrupt politics, consumerism, capitalism, and of course militarisation of police. What used to feel like a cautionary tale about the near future’s rise of corporate fascism now just feels like a documentary of today, and much of the movie remains relevant as ever. Paul Verhoeven’s satire isn’t subtle but in RoboCop it is only fitting that everything is so distinctly in your face, it suits the nature and style of the film so perfectly. At the same time, RoboCop also works as a B-movie sci-fi flick. It is very cheesy from the over-the-top action moments to the dialogue, but it was also witty, well made and well paced across its roughly hour and 40 minute runtime, with not one wasted scene. It seems like it should feel dated but as said earlier, it was ahead of its time. As goofy as the movie is, it’s also violent, vulgar and schlocky. The main character is technically killed within 20 minutes in such a brutal way, establishing the tone for the rest of the movie. There’s also all the little touches of worldbuilding throughout for this futuristic setting, such as the automated greeting unit for prospective house hunters, and the ads poking fun at consumer culture.

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The cast all perform well in their parts. Peter Weller convincingly portrays RoboCop even under the bulky suit and helmet. He really immerses himself as the character, giving him a real, profound depth. The supporting cast are good in their parts too. However among them, it’s the cast of villains who shine the most, especially Ronny Cox, Kurtwood Smith and Miguel Ferrer.

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Paul Verhoeven’s direction is great. Although it takes place sometime in the future, the film makes little attempt to look that much futuristic beyond its cyborg lead. The design, costumes and locations are steeped in the look and feel of the 1980s, giving the film both a recognisability and a lived-in aesthetic. The effects are sometimes rough but mostly well-rendered, and the practical effects are fantastic. There’s even some stop motion, while that does look dated, it does add something to the style and feel of the movie. The violence of RoboCop is especially unrestrained, and there are many uses of authentic looking effects for the gore.

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RoboCop works as both an 80s action B movie, and a social satire, goofy and entertaining, yet very intelligent and relevant. It’s been said many times but it’s surprising how well it holds up over a few decades later. I’d go so far as to say that RoboCop is essential viewing, especially if you’re a fan of action movies.