The Films of PAUL VERHOEVEN
Few directors would fit the concept of our website better than Paul Verhoeven. The dutch filmmaker known for his controversial motion pictures has a knack for no-nonsense storytelling and daring subject matters. Violence, Sex, Science Fiction, militarism, Nazis, killer robots, strippers – his filmography is full of movies that dare more than the rest, that have it all. Here is a look at “the Verhoeven five”, my list of favorite Verhoeven movies, with some mini-reviews for each one illustrating their furiousness.
I have to admit that I have not seen Verhoeven’s very early work and I am a sucker for movies that keep me as the audience on the edge. That does not mean that his movies are over the top and I am easily impressed or entertained, quite the opposite. Yet his movies are a cut above the rest when it comes to pushing the envelope, be it extraordinary ideas for science fiction worlds, biting social criticism, swim-against-the-current efforts to show sexuality on screen, a talent for cramming all sorts of entertaining cinematic motifs into a movie, and giving the audience one hell of a time. All of that without becoming cheesy or popcornish. His films are cult classics and I believe most of the fervent attacks on his work are unjustified.
Total Recall, 1990
When this movie made its way from movie theaters into living rooms, a revolution had happened. This was a sci-fi movie that mixed cutting edge CGI with Heinleinian dystopia and adult themes. Few other movies in this world have strippers with three boobs. Total Recall was at times too insane, but all in all one hell of a ride and sci/fi movie entertainment adventure par excellence. Furiousness: 3/5
Basic Instinct, 1992
The movie made some feminists so furious, they included an audio commentary with one of them, Camille Paglia, on the DVD. Thousands of people have never seen the uncut version of this movie I grew up watching on TV (pays to be European sometimes). This was at a time when Michael Douglas was still a movie star, and Sharon Stone one of the hottest starlets to grace teenie wank banks. Paul Verhoeven managed to blend an intriguing crime thriller with some of the spiciest erotic material in theaters to date. A great mix I think, that could never be replicated. Not with Sliver, and not with that horrible horrible sequel. Basic Instinct is a classic. Furiousness: 4/5
The movie he gets most flak for probably, Showgirls continued his foray into lurid material. Berkeley was widely shunned for horrible acting and the movie seemed to be too lousy for many critics. But what the haters fail to see is the honest picture it paints of the industry and the courage of the filmmaker to make a movie like this that does not care too much about mainstream critical appeal. I believe, lots of critics hate the movie because they are prudish wimps who can’t watch a movie that shows some rough lovin’, but they would easily give thumbs up to the next hollywood big-budget slaugherfest, as if killing people was more natural than screwing them in a whirlpool. Booya. Furiousness: 2/5
Starship Troopers, 1997
In my opinion his pivotal work. Based on the Heinlein novel of the same name, the movie stripped a lot of the dystopic world of the book and concentrated on the bug-squashing. But the social criticism remains and almost all haters of this movie just fail to see how much it is a satire about militarism and fascism. Covered under a veil of action movie goodness with huge bugs, tiny guns, Denise Richards’ curves and cheesy propaganda clips. The movie you just have to love. It has such cult factor it is hard to not watch it at least twice a year. It captures a whole century of war movies, propaganda and post-ww2 sensitivity. What a movie, full of fun, action, subtext and special effects that were ahead of its time. Furiousness: 4/5
Black Book, 2006
Few people know he went back to the Netherlands to make a movie about the Dutch resistance, and even fewer people have ever seen it. The film, called Zwartboek in dutch, centers around a young beautiful Dutch girl that gets entangled in the resistance. The movie is long, and has pretty much everything a movie like this could possibly have. It has action, intrigue, music, history, crazy twists, tragedies, men on commando missions, some raunchy bits, excellent actors and a good rhythm to it. I can wholeheartedly recommend this film, one of the most entertaining films of the kind I have seen in recent years. Carice van Houten is also quite a treat, for the male readers among you. Furiousness: 5/5
Now you might ask, where is Robocop, and Hollow Man? I don’t want to include all h n’t mean the others are lesser works, I just think they less obviously show off his qualities. Robocop has a great justice and society subtext, but I personally find it a bit too trashy, while Hollow Man has an amazing premise and some really cool ideas, but it lacks execution, probably because it was big budget hollywood and targeted at a younger audience.
What are your Verhoeven favorites? Comment below, I am looking forward to reading your feedback.