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#249. Paul Verhoeven

There are quite a few directors who are known for their excessive and gratuitous use of sex and violence in film. Directors like Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese have been accused of pushing the envelope on these fronts time and time again. With a string of violent movies such as Pulp Fiction (1995), Kill Bill (2003), and Inglorious Basterds (2009), Quentin Tarantino might be the go-to for gratuitous gore. However, equally violent and full of vulgar language and sex, we have Raging Bull (1980), The Departed (2006), and The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), giving Martin Scorsese an equal claim to the title. That being said, these two directors use these controversial elements in an artistic way. Paul Verhoeven, on the other hand, is essentially known for creating films that had sex and violence for the sake of sex and violence. This week’s two films highlight some of the Paul Verhoeven’s best works.

Total RecallTotal Recall
Year: 1990
Rating: R
Length: 113 minutes / 1.88 hours

By 1990, Verhoeven had established himself in the American film industry. With some over-the-top 1980’s action behind him, it was easy for Verhoeven to continue on into the next decade with the same style that served him well before. Of course, this violent style was used again in 1997’s Starship Troopers, but before then he had two films that went over-the-top on their sexual nature as compared to their violent gore. While Basic Instinct (1992) was well received by critics, Showgirls (1995) was critically panned, even earning him the designation of the first director to actually accept his Golden Raspberry award for the film. Ironically enough, even though Verhoeven is very well known for his science fiction films, also including Hollow Man (2000), he has stated that he does not particularly care for the genre. This is unfortunate, because Total Recall (1990) is an excellent adaptation of a Philip K. Dick story.

Set almost 70 years in the future (from today, not from 1990), Total Recall follows Douglas Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger), a construction worker who keeps having nightmares of his vacuum-induced death on Mars. To help him cope with these dreams, he goes to Rekall to have a Martian vacation implanted in his brain. When they offer to sweeten the deal by making his dream about being a secret agent on Mars, he accepts. Unfortunately, the procedure fails and Quaid thinks and acts like a secret agent. That is, until his supposed wife tries to kill him. Next, his best friend seems to be an undercover agent as well, which prompts Quaid to head to Mars to solve the problem that his former self needs solved. Once there, he gets entangled in an uprising between the natives and Cohaagen (Ronny Cox), a corporate bad guy who is keeping everyone under the thumb of his mining industry.

RobocopRobocop
Year: 1987
Rating: R
Length: 102 minutes / 1.7 hours

I have a theory that in the early 2010’s somebody in Hollywood found an old box of 1980’s VHS tapes in their parents’ basement and decided “we need to remake some of these films”. There’s no other reason why such iconic movies like Total Recall and Robocop would get remakes in 2012 and 2014, respectively. These original films used some of the best special effects to date and were Verhoeven’s entrance into American movies. Before his first American film, Flesh & Blood (1985), Verhoeven directed a number of films in his native Netherlands. Perhaps the most notable of these foreign films was that of Turkish Delight (1973), which actually earned the Best Foreign Film Oscar for that year. And while his American films slightly outnumber his native ones, they all have a distinctively Verhoeven style to them.

Only 13 years in the future (again, from 2016, not 1987), Detroit is out of money but still has a severe crime problem. As a result, the police force is privatized and is now run by Omni Consumer Products (OCP). After an enforcement droid kills an OCP board member during a demonstration, the experimental “RoboCop” program is initiated. However, in order for the program to work, they need someone to volunteer to be turned into a cyborg. As it just so happens, Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) is on death’s door after he’s brutally shot by a group of men led by crime lord Clarence Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith). The only way to save Murphy is to fix his body with robotic parts. While this new RoboCop successfully reduces crime in the city, the human element of Murphy’s mind still struggles with his tragic “death” and longs to avenge his former life.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 perfect Paul Verhoeven pieces

Bacon #: 2 (Robocop / Mark Edward Walters -> JFK / Kevin Bacon)

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One response to “#249. Paul Verhoeven

  1. Pingback: End of Act Five | Cinema Connections

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