Bloomberg News

Trump’s Golf Game Burns Scots; ‘Recall’ Fizzles: Movies

August 04, 2012

"Total Recall"

Jessica Biel and Colin Farrell in "Total Recall." The film is an adaptation of a Philip K. Dick short story. Photographer: Michael Gibson/Columbia Pictures via Bloomberg

In 2005 Donald Trump bought 1,400 acres of farmland and environmentally sensitive dunes north of Aberdeen, Scotland. He intended to build two golf courses, a hotel, luxury housing and vacation apartments.

The local planning committee scoffed. Trump went over their heads. The Scottish government, ignoring the howls of scientists and conservation groups, gave him the permits he wanted. And that was that.

The documentary “You’ve Been Trumped” relates the aftermath. It’s like watching Godzilla stamp on a village of hobbits. The feisty locals protest; they soon find themselves without water, then power. The police actually accuse them of harassing Trump’s security goons.

Trump, meanwhile, behaves like Trump -- glamorously, imperially. He barely acknowledges the outraged residents beyond griping that their houses (he calls them slums) are going to mar his golfers’ view.

As it grows increasingly clear that no twist is in the offing, the picture’s chin-up spunkiness becomes depressing, then irritating. In a late sequence that wanly salutes Michael Moore, director Anthony Baxter tries (but fails) to put through a long-distance call to Trump.

Familiar Booth

The booth he’s phoning from appeared in “Local Hero,” the charming 1983 comedy by Bill Forsyth, whose plot resembles the story Baxter is telling.

It’s doubtful, though, that the “Local Hero” clips Baxter keeps dropping in the film will mean much to viewers 30 years down the road. Only in Hollywood movies do developers have a change of heart that saves the day for pristine tracts of land.

“You’ve Been Trumped,” from International Film Circuit, is playing in New York. Rating: ** (Seligman)

‘Total Recall’

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s hammy, catch-phrase-drunk performance in 1990’s “Total Recall” was big enough for any two movies.

This week’s remake could use the overflow.

Director Len Wiseman’s relentless, grinding “Total Recall” updates the Schwarzenegger vehicle by dodging fun the way humans dodge weaponized robots.

Fun Dies

Drained of the parting-shot quips, over-the-top violence and lunkhead humor that made Paul Verhoeven’s original film a genre touchstone, the total remake is like a jackhammer, doing its work long past what’s tolerable.

Wiseman (“Underworld”) and screenwriters Kurt Wimmer and Mark Bomback retrieve details from the source -- Philip K. Dick’s short story “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale” -- yet “Recall” 2.0 is close enough to Verhoeven’s version to spark deja vu and inevitable disappointment.

Puppy-faced Colin Farrell tackles Douglas Quaid (the Arnold role), a post-apocalypse laborer haunted by shoot-’em-up nightmares.

Alternately bored and troubled, Quaid visits Rekall, a company that implants memories of adventure and pleasure to brighten joyless workaday lives in a gloomy police state.

The procedure goes awry when it awakens Quaid’s real memories of his life as an elite killer spy -- memories that the ruthless government will kill to erase.

No Exit

Chemical warfare has rendered the planet uninhabitable save for two locations: the ruling United Federation of Britain and its oppressed Colony, formerly Australia.

Connecting the two lands is The Fall, a high-speed elevator plunging through the planet. Bedraggled commuters from the Colony can be at their far-off factory posts in 17 minutes.

That globe-piercing shuttle is this film’s best, perhaps only, innovation. Just about everything else looks handed down from other cinematic galaxies.

Schwarzenegger’s goofy emoting jibed with Verhoeven’s satirical ambitions, while Farrel is merely earnest and befuddled, if convincingly so.

Kate Beckinsale, strutting like an angry, heavily-armed catwalk model, has none of the icy camp that Sharon Stone gave the deadly agent posing as Quaid’s wife. Jessica Biel, as the hero’s true love, is a bit more memorable, and Bill Nighy is gamely arch as the Resistance leader.

But not even the sly Bryan Cranston as the smooth-talking tyrant can rescue “Recall” from Wiseman’s numbing, repetitive action scenes. Gunfire, explosions, stabbings--this movie doesn’t so much end as wear itself out.

“Total Recall,” from Columbia Pictures, is playing across the U.S. Rating: *1/2 (Evans)


What the Stars Mean:
*****  Fantastic
****   Excellent
***    Very Good
**     Good
*      Poor
(No stars) Avoid

(Greg Evans and Craig Seligman are critics for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are their own.)

Muse highlights include Lewis Lapham on books and Jeremy Gerard on theater.

To contact the writers on the story: Greg Evans at gregeaevans@yahoo.com. Craig Seligman at cseligman@mindspring.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff in New York at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.


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