Combustible Celluloid
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With: Rutger Hauer, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tom Burlinson, Ronald Lacey, Susan Tyrrell, Jack Thompson, Brion James, Bruno Kirby, Simon Andreu, John Dennis Johnston, Nancy Cartwright
Written by: Gerard Soeteman, Paul Verhoeven
Directed by: Paul Verhoeven
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 126
Date: 06/10/1985

Flesh+Blood (1985)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Sex and Violence

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Paul Verhoeven's first English-language film has the perfect title. It features a complex array of characters, none of whom can be considered entirely good or entirely evil. They all do questionable things in the name of their personal causes. For example, it begins in the 16th century, where a city's ruler promises a band of mercenaries -- led by Martin (Rutger Hauer) -- 24 hours of free looting if they will help defend the city against a coup d'├ętat. They do, but are betrayed (authority figures cannot be trusted). The mercenaries get the majority of screen time, and they're so vile they eat like animals. The supposed good guy turns the tables by using plague-infected dog carcass on his enemies. And the heroine, Agnes (Jennifer Jason Leigh), uses sex to control the mercenaries, even though she has already promised herself to the hero.

That's a lot, and there's more in this long 126-minute movie. It's packed with sex and nudity, fighting, blood, gore, and death, tricky traps and escapes, some magic, and a little coincidence and faith. As with Verhoeven's next film, the great Robocop, he manages to convey his powerful themes (war, religion, authority, etc.) within the framework of a hysterical exploitation movie; it entertains first and makes you think later.

The great Basil Poledouris composed the score, and the cinematography was by Jan de Bont, who later became a director with Speed. This was the fifth movie Hauer made with Verhoeven, and the last to date (they apparently fought quite a bit on set). Orion Pictures gave it a cursory release in August of 1985, in an edited, R-rated version, and it didn't get much notice. Now Kino Lorber has released the uncut version on a new Blu-ray, with a commentary track by Verhoeven. It also comes with a little featurette about Poledouris, which I found fascinating.

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