Thursday 20 January 2011


(Paul Verhoeven, 1997)

Verhoeven's strange genius - an ability to mix the pleasures of trash seamlessly with more highbrow subtexts - reaches perhaps it's high point with this rollicking adaptation of Robert A Heinlein's 1959 novel. Broad satire of military fascism, propaganda masquerading as media and totalitarianism slips in between the gloriously gratuitous ultraviolence and gore; and the whole thing is giddily comic and absurdly funny. The cast (Denise Richards being the most famous example) are mainly beautiful and wooden - crude satire even there - transforming the emotional moments into often hilarious melodrama, while the strident, martial tone and the rudimentary characterisation carries the whole thing along at a rigorous clip.
And yet, Verhoeven is a fine craftsman, and he ensures that the action beats all play well. They work on their own terms; thrillingly shot and edited and with a canny awareness of what makes such material successful, they allow this clever film to work on more than one level.
He would try a similar approach a few years later in a different, perhaps more complex genre with the now-legendary Showgirls, . But that didn't work out quite so well...

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