For 30 minutes, Tricked is a documentary about director Paul Verhoeven, who made it big in Hollywood with Robocop and Starship Troopers. Lately, he’s been making films in his native Netherlands, including an hour-long feature called “Tricked.” The film showing at the Denver Film Festival is the short documentary attached to the hour-long movie.
Tricked — the hour-long feature — was written by a “crowd” of Dutch citizens. The thinking is that if the wisdom of the crowds can do better at solving math problems, perhaps it can do better at screenwriting as well.
Verhoeven worked with screenwriter Kim Van Kooten and a cast and crew to produce a four-minute scene — a pregnant woman arrives at a party, which makes the men there nervous because they don’t know who the father is. Dutch TV would show this clip and the producers would invite anyone to write the next four minutes.
Verhoeven acted as arbiter, choosing one scene from one screenplay, another line of dialogue from another one. Then the team would shoot those four minutes, show them, and solicit the next round of input.
Frankly, it seems like a terrible idea to me. It seems primed to spark a race to the bottom. But Verhoeven tackles the task with aplomb. He seems to find the project challenging and interesting. He seems inspired by the hundreds of submissions, if a little daunted. He’s worried that people will forget that the story needs to arc to a conclusion, starting a little before the halfway mark, that budding screenwriters will take the project and send the story flying off in crazy directions not suggested by Van Kooten’s original scenario.
But the citizens of The Netherlands do pretty well. They come up with a script that is pretty clever, fairly intricate, and well paced. Tricked is no masterpiece. The characters don’t feel very well developed (there were 8 of them to keep track of in the first scene, and more were added later). There does seem to be a lot of plot revelations in such a short film. But on the whole, the experiment worked better than I would have guessed.
Still, the reason to see the film is because you are interested in the concept. If you were to watch the 60-minute film without the introductory documentary, you’d probably be disappointed to have paid full price at a film festival.