Barely competent, really dull.
This already feels like the most well-tread ground in the world, but this is one of the most frustrating movies I've ever watched. Its tone is inconsistent, swerving from serious senate debates to slapstick goofiness with Jar Jar. But its biggest problem is that it's flat-out amateurish filmmaking. Filmmaking with hundreds of millions of dollars behind it, but it's still amateurish, with a complete lack of direction for the actors, direction for the FX work or even an understanding of…
Few big-budget action movies work on multiple levels. Most are just brain-dead violence and shallow spectacle... Especially ones starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. At first glance, Paul Verhoeven's Total Recall fits that bill to a tee. Ultra-violent and full of one-liners, it seems like the last gasp of big-budget, ludicrous action-filled practical effects blockbusters before CGI took over. Verhoeven is too smart for it to be just that, though.
By questioning the reality of what's happening to Quaid, he also brings into…