C'mon Hollywood: Get Paul Verhoeven behind the camera again!
Next week sees the release of the new TOTAL RECALL, starring Colin Farrell, and while it looks like a fun time, it’s not likely to hold a torch to the blood-soaked, rollicking great time of the original. The reason? Paul Verhoeven.
The Dutch director has lavished us with a number of classics, (including the aforementioned TOTAL RECALL) from the first ROBOCOP, FLESH + BLOOD, STARSHIP TROOPERS, and BASIC INSTINCT. With an eye towards excess, gore, violence, camp, and satire, Verhoeven’s unique style was a thing of beauty. It was something to look forward to in his heyday. Between 1987 and 1997, Verhoeven laid out a string of memorable pics, many of which are revered as classics. Even Verhoeven’s worst films have a distinct nostalgia, his style and superfluity rising above an otherwise lackluster film (see: SHOWGIRLS).
ROBOCOP set the stage for Verhoeven’s foothold, giving us a hyper violent, gorefest of sci-fi satire that announced the director’s place in the market with a bang. Who can forget the scene where Murphy is reduced to a bloody pulp? Or the first ED-209 sequence? The shoot-out at the steel mill? It’s a quotable mash-up of greatness from start to finish, one that still holds up today (and yet another of his films to be remade within the next year).
TOTAL RECALL was an even more ambitious project for Verhoeven, with an elevated budget and more ambitious story. The director tackled the film with his excessive style, casting Arnold Schwarzenegger as the lead of what would become yet another highly quotable sci-fi classic. Afterwards, Verhoeven jumped into the erotic thriller business with the Michael Douglas/Sharon Stone starrer, BASIC INSTINCT. The film generated a lot of steam for it’s graphic depiction of sex and violence, which was consistent with Verhoeven’s sensibilities. It made a star out of Stone, mostly for that renowned “vag flash” and was one of the biggest films of the ‘90’s.
The director then reteamed with BASIC INSTINCT scripter Joe Eszterhas on the NC-17 rated SHOWGIRLS, a film that flopped at the box office, but has since become a cult classic. Starring former Saved By The Bell alum Elizabeth Berkley, the film is a mess of excess, but a total riot (and great for drinking games). It may not be Verhoeven’s best, but it’s still his. He followed SHOWGIRLS with another jaunt in the sci-fi genre with an adaptation of the Robert A. Heinlein classic, STARSHIP TROOPERS. Starring Casper Van Dien and Denise Richards, the film was a return to form of sorts for Verhoeven and a welcome return to the blood-and-gore action he was so well known for. The film didn’t fare so well at the box office, but like SHOWGIRLS, found new life on the shelf as an esteemed masterwork.
HOLLOW MAN, starring Kevin Bacon and Elizabeth Shue, was the director’s next outing and was a decent hit for the director. Although not as strong in the gore and violence quotient as we’d come accustomed to, it was still an eerie romp, which is also notable for one of the best topless scenes of all time, featuring the lovely Rhona Mitra. In the end, it’s still a solid Verhoeven flick, just not at the top of the pile.
And then, Verhoeven disappeared. He went back to the Netherland’s and didn’t reemerge onto the filmmaking scene again until 2006, when he premiered his foreign language pic, BLACK BOOK. Starring Carice Van Houten (Melisandre on HBO’s Game of Thrones), the film was a fairly engaging thriller almost completely devoid of the director’s usual signature style. While an effective film, it was almost unrecognizable as a Verhoeven movie. It won many prestigious awards and sent the filmmaker off into the celluloid sunset, where he’s been absent since.
In his seclusion there have been a number of projects linked to his name, including another Dutch war film called HIDDEN FORCE, and most recently an adaptation of his own novel, JESUS OF NAZARETH. At 74 years old (yes, seriously), the director may have said all he has to say about sci-fi satire and excessive sexuality, but I think he’s got at least one more in him. With so many veteran directors still knocking out awesome work (Clint Eastwood and Ridley Scott, to name a few), I think it’s time for Verhoeven to come out of hiding and hit us with one more classic, a grand opus to put a cherry on top of a tremendous career.
With Arnold Schwarzenegger jumping back into film, perhaps the TOTAL RECALL duo could reunite to make the long-awaited Crusades pic that almost came to be in the ‘90’s (sets built, cast assembled, and CUTTHROAT ISLAND bankrupted the studio). Widely revered as one of the best, unproduced screenplays of all time, perhaps now could be the time to bring the historical epic to life.
Regardless of whether Verhoeven returns to any of his signature genres or not, he’s left us with an outstanding resume of films to enjoy for years to come, but wouldn’t it be amazing if he decided to get back in the saddle and take one last ride into the sunset and leave us with a film that’s worthy of his legacy?
|Extra Tidbit:||What would you like to see Verhoeven do next? Give me your ideal genre and cast. I'm partial to the Crusade pic happening with Arnold.|