Tricked (Steekspel): Rome Review

Ricky Koole Peter Blok Tricked - H 2012
Despite 370 credited writers, this conventional TV dramedy offers a few vintage Verhoeven moments.

Paul Verhoeven directs a "user-generated" dramedy in this Dutch-language project.

ROME -- Former Hollywood bad boy Paul Verhoeven (Basic Instinct, Starship Troopers) offers up a lively, occasionally racy, though ultimately conventional TV-style dramedy with his medium-length Dutch-language effort, Tricked (Steekspel).

Marketed as “the first user generated film,” the project was co-written by hundreds of participants along with Verhoeven and his team, with each segment of the 52-minute movie shot after the previous one was screened. Gimmicks aside, this decently acted and paced effort shows that the 74-year-old auteur can still be marginally transgressive, if not entirely original. Packaged with a promo documentary of only passing interest, Tricked premiered in Rome’s CinemaXXI section and should play additional fests, with possibilities of Euro TV exposure.

The behind-the-scenes video (entitled Paul’s Experience) reveals a process by which would-be screenwriters submitted scripts to Verhoeven and co-authors Kim van Kooten (Blind Date) and Robert Alberdingk Thijm, who sifted through thousands of pages of material to find what best suited their project.

In the end, the fruit of all these labors seems hardly different from what could have been drafted by a few paid scribes, although Tricked does contain more plot twists than the usual hour-long narrative. But what the documentary claims is “a new style” of moviemaking reminds one of Griffin Mill’s remark in The Player, when someone at the studio suggests they all get their script ideas out of the newspaper: “I was thinking what an interesting concept it is … to eliminate the writer from the artistic process. If we can get rid of the actors and directors, maybe we’ve got something.”

Luckily, Verhoeven is still a director with a certain edge to him, and the resulting movie features a few moments of vintage nastiness, including an early scene of a teenage girl, Lieke (Carolien Spoor), sniffing coke in her bedroom, followed by one where she vomits into a toilet bowl filled with a bloody tampon. This all happens during the 50th birthday party of her father, Remco (Peter Blok), a skirt-chasing real estate developer whose former mistress, Nadja (Salie Harmsen), shows up bearing her own special gift: a large baby bump, for which she claims Remco is responsible.

Thus kicks off a plethora of twists, turns and quid pro quos as Remco tries to keep his personal and professional lives intact, hoping that all the extramarital workouts — including an ongoing affair with his daughter’s best friend, Merel (Gaite Jansen) — won’t spoil his relationship with devout wife, Ineke (Ricky Koole), not to mention his control of a multinational firm that’s been put up for sale to a Chinese conglomerate.

Despite what often feels like an A.D.D. narrative, the plotlines remain fairly succinct, while the performances are spirited in a sitcom kind of way, with the actors maintaining a rapid pace and shooting off a few zingers here and there. Unfortunately, the tech credits are also extremely TV-friendly, with the action confined to overlit interior spaces that look way too video-ish through the lens of an Arri Alexa, making one long for Verhoeven’s eventual return to the big screen.

Production company: FCCE
Cast: Peter Blok, Jochum ten Haaf, Sallie Harmsen, Robert de Hoog, Gaite Jansen
Director: Paul Verhoeven
Screenwriters: Kim van Kooten, Robert Alberdingk Thijm, Paul Verhoeven and 397 participants
Producer: Rene Mioch, Justus Verkerk
Director of photography: Lennert Hillege
Production designer: Roland de Groot
Music: Fons Merkies
Costume designers: Yan Tax, Marie Lauwers
Editor: Job ter Burg
Sales: FCCE Film Sales
No rating, 52 minutes

Paul’s Experience
Director: Michael Greive
No rating, 32 minutes