Film Review: Tricked

This unique hybrid of documentary segment preceding celebrated director Paul Verhoeven’s adventure into a fiction featurette powered by crowd-sourcing of the story and script amounts to a genuinely entertaining package.
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It’s clear that Paul Verhoeven (Turkish Delight, Spetters, RoboCop, Total Recall, Basic Instinct, among many plus cult stinker Showgirls) loves two things—filmmaking and sex. Having worked so successfully in both Europe and Hollywood and in so many genres, it’s also clear that he is passionate about trying new things, a quality this adventurous director shares in this latest outing when he claims a need to “step into the unknown.”

Tricked suggests all this and more, as Verhoeven dons yet another cap: that of an enthusiastic parlor-game host. It’s a logical next step furthering his insistent evolution (like Werner Herzog and others) as fearless European filmmaker of impressive intellect and skill.

The documentary prologue of Tricked, almost a third of the entire film, sets up why and how Verhoeven embarked on the featurette that follows, a project which he describes as “a user-generated film.” In this early section, he devotes time to production logistics, including how and why he chose the lovely house where much of the principal action takes place, how he picked the talent that fills the eight main roles (some of the performers, still in acting school, appear in the prologue). Verhoeven allows that only the first four pages of the story came from a colleague and he shows how the many hundreds of pieces that trickled in from the public to complete the film were organized by color code to distinguish qualities that stood out, like a good plot or character idea or something well-written.

While some viewers with an eye on the craft may want more detail, Verhoeven also enlightens upon how he arrived at his script, which took many months to cobble together because each episode necessitated a subsequent one which was selected from whatever the public proposed. The point is: The crew, actors and filmmaker himself never knew where the story was going until about seven/eighths into the plot, when he decided an ending had to be determined.

The featurette is a hybrid of family drama and deep dysfunction, mystery, comedy, financial intrigue and soft-core titillation. It’s a tightly packed pile-up of soap-opera elements and typical Verhoeven shock and surprise punches that work because, among other things, the performers and situations are credible and Verhoeven, with time done on the continent and in Europe, knows what works.

As the featurette opens, the pregnant Nadja (Sallie Harmsen) arrives at a lively 50th birthday party for business mogul Remco (Peter Blok) in his family’s lovely home, where his two kids Lieke (Carolien Marie Elisabeth Spoor) and Tobias (Robert de Hoog) and their pal Merel (Gaite Jansen), all in their very early 20s, show their naughty side. Remco himself is a bad-boy womanizer, and his family and colleagues know it. As the story proceeds, the intrigue heats up.

The key to Tricked being so amusing and engaging a parlor game is that an organic whole magically emerges and perceptive viewers will glean clues to how that happened. And the ending—a couple of big reveals with nice icing atop—also does the trick. 

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