Tuesday, December 04, 2007

"You are what you doooo....."

It's about time to stop talking about sports and start talking about crappy 80's and 90's action flicks that just can't be beat no matter how much time goes by.

The kernel of thought you can thank for this post originated last night, during a commercial break of the Patriots' improbable come-from-behind, "please let us give it away"-Baltimore-clock-mismanaged-game. I saw the first trailer I have ever seen, on television mind you, for the new Rambo film.

Yes, Rambo. Rambo is an American hero, and I guess ol' Sly decided he wasn't going to allow Bruce Willis to keep ridiculous sequels that should never have been made to himself. No, Sly decided that he would indeed ride John Rambo to victory for a fourth time.

Click here for the R-rated trailer; scroll down and click play. How this movie even got an "R" rating with some of this stuff is ridiculous. We're back to the days of good ol' blood and gore, folks! And just in time - during an election year!

Back to Total Recall. A classic film. I have yet to read the book, but any movie which features a creature protruding from a human's thorax as a central figure to the movie in a big-budget blockbuster is always going to be good. And any movie where Ronny Cox (Robocop, Total Recall, folk singer galore) plays the bad guy, with lines such as "Can you handle that? Good, cuz otherwise I'll erase your ass" is a can't-miss opportunity.

Let's start from the beginning. Quaid is played iun serviceable fashion by Ah-nuld, a guy whom we are quick to find out is stuck in a Matrix-like reality: hot woman, nice house, good job. Turns out he used to be a super secret agent on Mars, part of the bad guy alliance fighting the "rebels" who want more clean air (air on Mars is controlled by Ronny Cox's character). They erased the memory of the man who is now known as Quaid (formerly Hauser) so they could plant him on Earth, give him a desire to go to Mars, and infiltrate the rebels so he could destroy Kuato, the 'George Washington' of the rebellion.

Quaid, not knowing who he really is, decides to check out "Recall" to have a memory of a Mars spy mission implanted into his brain, so that he feels he was actually there (another future convenience - fake memory implants that seem real. When will this stuff actually happen?)

This is one of the most underrated scenes in the film. The actors who play the "Recall" staff (Bob McClane (any relation to John McClane?), Dr. Lull, Ernie) are perfectly cast and their lines & delivery are excellent. Quaid nearly has (one of my favorite terms in the film) a "schizoid embolism" before they have a chance to implant the fun memory. With his steroid-assisted muscles, Quaid nearly fights off these three Recall staff members while screaming about a mission to Mars (even though Recall hadn't implanted the memory yet). They subdue him with those cool, futuristic subdue-type-thingies; syringes that appear to act on pump-action. Once he's under, the conversation between the three Recall staff members is classic. Not only is Bob McClane, the sales rep who loses a customer to the distraction, visibly pissed off, but he calls Dr. Lull a "dumb bitch":

Lull: He has been going on and on about Mars; he has actually been there!

Bob: Use your head, ya dumb bitch! He's just acting out the spy mission story from his memory implant!

Lull: I'm afraid that's not possible.

Bob: Why not??

Lull: Because we haven't implanted it yet!

Bob: Oh, Jesus...

Lull: I've been trying to tell you...someone has erased his memory.

Ernie: Wait, someone? I mean, we're talking about the fucking agency here.

Lull: Shut up!

Later, McClane asks Lull to see what she can do for Mister Quaid, so she says "I'll try...it's pretty messy in there." Then McClane says, "you two try to drop him in a cab...and if anyone comes asking we've never even heard of Douglas Quaid." Perfect.

Other random moments of perfection include Richter's pursuit of Quaid, so frustrating for poor, doomed Richter that he ultimately makes an error that costs him his arms. As Richter's body falls to the ground with Quaid holding the bloody nub-arms, Quaid screams, "See you at the party Richter!" in response to Richter's prior sucker-punch. Richter had punched him earlier because the "bad guys", Quaid's former employees on Mars who are controlling all of the airflow, are about to erase his Quaid identity and revert him back to Hauser, so he can party it up, be rich, and never know what it was like to lead a good life and care about others. If I were Quaid I probably wouldn't have fought so hard against this...

Other classic scenes include Benny the Mutant ("face it man...his fortune-tellin' days are over") who ultimately dies at the hands of Quaid, assisted by a perfect line ("Benny! Screwwwww youuuuu!"). Kuato himself is classic and, with the growth of the internet, just google Kuato and you'll find lots of goofy stuff modeled after the original character, along with crazy YouTube videos of Kuato with "In Your Eyes" voice overs, etc.

There's other deep stuff in this movie, like Quaid breaking through his former identity and realizing that he didn't want to be a super-spy for the bad guys; identity crises galore; whether or not what's happening is a dream or reality and whether or not it even matters, etc. But let's face facts here: the book might have been chock full o' these themes, but this is one of those timeless movies that can be taken just as much at face value as it can be picked apart and analyzed. That's why seeing this or Robocop (another Paul Verhoeven classic) on cable late at night always makes one stay up past one's bedtime: waiting for the buildup to lines like "schizoid embolism" and Kuato's first appearance (and his subsequent, untimely death) are worth every minute.

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