“Total Recall” is one of those movies that is beloved by a pretty wide swath of fandom, but it's never been a favorite of mine. Part of the problem is that while I love “Robocop,” I don't think every single piece of material works with that tone. Paul Verhoeven loves to subvert the material he works with, and while “Robocop” was clearly written with tongue in cheek, the early drafts of “Recall” were all played pretty straight.
There was a scene in one of those drafts that I loved dearly, right as Quaid is forced to confront an alley full of men. He's got no idea what to do, and then his body snaps in and he kills everyone, bare-handed, only to end up shaken and freaked out by what he just did. I loved the idea of Richard Dreyfuss playing that scene because we'd be just as surprised by that as the character would be. When Arnold Schwarzenegger plays that scene, we can't possibly be surprised. Of course he can kill a bunch of people with his bare hands. That's his thing.
Since then, that beat has been effectively utilized in all sorts of films. Maybe my favorite version is in the first “Bourne Identity.” The trailers for “American Ultra” are built around a similar scene, and it looks like a fun variation on the idea here. Part of the reason it looks fun is because of the comic chemistry between Kristen Stewart and Jesse Eisenberg, who were both delightful in the criminally underrated “Adventureland.” I know we're all supposed to have a problem with Kristen Stewart because blah blah blah, but now that “Twilight” is in her rear-view mirror, she seems determined to find projects that she actually enjoys. Her last gag in this, with the taser, is hilarious to me precisely because of her slightly hazy mumbly thing, a nice complement to Eisenberg's energy.
And I'm officially onboard for Hollywood to start using Topher Grace better than they have so far. Here's hoping this is part of that process.
“American Ultra” is in theaters August 21, 2015.