Paul Verhoeven's Tricked
Kino // Unrated // $29.95 // July 26, 2016
Review by Tyler Foster | posted August 4, 2016
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Graphical Version
After returning to his native Netherlands, where he directed the critically acclaimed Black Book, director Paul Verhoeven stepped out of the spotlight for a few years, perhaps to recharge his creative juices. When he finally returned to filmmaking, he did so with an interesting idea: he and Kim van Kooten had scripted five minutes worth of a short film, and the remaining 45 minutes would be written by the audience, who would see the film and suggest where the movie should go in ten minute chunks.

As presented on Kino Lorber's new DVD release of the film, titled Tricked (although Verhoeven refers to it in the film as 14 1/2), viewers are offered an 89-minute feature presentation made up of both the 50-minute short film, and a brief documentary segment outlining Verhoeven's experiences making the project. The two parts complement one another but don't form a cohesive whole, so for the purposes of this review, I'll devote a little time to each one separately.

Of the two halves of the film, the documentary is arguably the most interesting, if only just because it reveals both his generosity as a filmmaker and his honesty as a person. He is very interested in soaking up the ideas of his cast and crew, noting that they reminded of him of techniques he hadn't used since his first film, Turkish Delight, and being sure to defer to the contributions of others that helped Tricked turn out in the end. He is also quite candid about the notion that he thought the film was more of a conceptual win than an actual challenge, admitting the eventual struggle he had once the film was underway and he was overwhelmed by the submissions and the sheer number of possibilities they presented.

One thing the documentary glosses over, however, is Verhoeven's decision to reconfigure the project after the wheels were already in motion. According to information online, there seemed to be a promise that Verhoeven would interact with the filmmakers behind the winning submissions, or that he would have to choose scripts wholesale, even integrate others' short films directly into the movie. Instead, he and Robert Alberdingk Thijm essentially compiled ideas into their own screenplay, integrating the users' submissions while still putting their own fingerprint on the material. Verhoeven does go into detail about the need for an ending, expressing his concern that the story will not be wrapped up by the final segment without some guidance, but the documentary does not explicitly outline any ways in which Verhoeven changed the rules.

As for Tricked itself, the movie is fairly inconsequential, but entertaining, with splashes of sexual energy that recall Verhoeven's best work. Remco (Peter Blok) is a womanizing CEO whose business is danger of going under. His partner, Wim (Jochum ten Haaf) has brokered a sale of the company behind his back, his former lover, Nadja (Sallie Harmsen), is pregnant and telling him the baby is his, and he still has his exasperated wife, Ineke (Ricky Koole) and his new girlfriend, Merel (Gaite Jansen) to deal with. With tighter editing, Tricked might build to more of a fever pitch, but the set running time means the slow weaving of alliances and interests either takes a bit too long or isn't quite complex enough for the film to really shine. Nonetheless, his cast is engaging across the board, and the experience of watching him draw the strings together in the end is wickedly satisfying.

The DVD
Given Verhoeven's reputation as a provocateur, it's no surprise that the cover artwork for Tricked may or may not imply something a bit more devious and disturbing than the film actually entails, with the title in a bold red font next to an image of Remco unbuttoning Merel's shirt. The one-disc release comes in a standard eco-friendly Amaray case (the design once used to accomodate the Red Tab locking system), and there is no insert.

The Video and Audio
Presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen and Dolby Digital 5.1 surround, Tricked gets a decent home video presentation. Some of the documentary footage may have been filmed on slightly lower-quality video cameras and captured from a number of sources, so obviously, the visual quality of the imagery varies. The feature film is more consisent, with a clean, digital appearance that is generally nice and crisp but also ends up looking sort of cheap. No significant issues with banding or artifacts are noticeable, but the titles for the film look a little soft. English subtitles are included (the film is in Dutch) and a 2.0 stereo track is also available.

The Extras
Although the back of the case just mentions "behind the scenes footage" and "interviews, there's quite a bit of bonus material here. "Behind-the-Scenes Part 1" (6:52) and "Behind-the-Scenes Part 2" (5:52) are fly-on-the-wall looks at a couple of different days of shooting, some of which viewers will recognize from the main documentary. Not too indulgent, reasonably interesting. This is followed by another two-part featurette: "Entertainment Experience Casting: The Hague" (5:00) and "Entertainment Experience Casting: Amsterdam" (6:22), which dive into the open casting calls done for the short film, talking to some of the people in line who are interested in auditioning, as well as showing some of the auditions. These are pretty promotional, more like commercials for Entertainment Experience Casting than documentaries.

Two interviews are next, one with Carolien Spoor (3:00) and the other with director Paul Verhoeven (6:50). Both are from film festivals, the former on the red carpet and the latter in a windy junket scenario. In the latter, Verhoeven touches on the possibility that the finished film would've incorporated submissions actually completed by other filmmakers, with different actors playing the existing roles when each 10-minute transition point occurred.

The disc rounds out with two more film festival snippets, "Tricked at the Aruba International Film Festival" (2:30) and "Tricked at the Rome Film Festival" (1:23). These are basically montages, a bit of interview mixed with some B-roll and a bit of Paul introducing the movie.

Conclusion
Tricked, both with documentary and without, is more of a curiosity than anything, a footnote in Verhoeven's long career. That said, it's a fun footnote, one which paints a good picture of Verhoeven as a collaborator and a director, and the finished feature is certainly fun, if not deeply memorable. Recommended.



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