Spetters (Netherlands, 1980):

Blood and testosterone, Paul Verhoeven's thematic and stylistic fluids, flow freely in youth, so the director takes to teen-pic land, groin-tent pitched between Saturday Night Fever and Losin' It, the intensity heightened. The title is slang for "hotshots," reportedly, and enough of a description of the three main blokes, amateur dirt-bike racers aged about 20 and piloted by carnal impulses both on and off the track -- unofficial leader-of-the-pack Hans van Tongeren, disco-stud mechanic Toon Agterberg, and luckless schmo Maarten Spanjer, stuck in provincial Nowhereville. Night brings a teeming dance, where Agterberg, aiming for coolness, dips his fingers between a chick's thighs, only to hit a pot of mustard; a group of tambourine-rattlers hallelujahs outside, but the guys, equipped with a gal each, are too busy smacking gays en route to a construction site for a bit of midnight nookie. (Or attempted nookie: sabotaged by booze and menstrual cycles, two of the couples are left mimicking ecstasy in order to save face, limp cocks and adolescent dishonor motifs peeking under the hijinks.) Dreams get channeled into the roar of Hondas, but the trophy everyone wants is tawny Renée Soutendijk at the croquette-stand, determined to ditch kitchen grease for fur coats, one bed at a time. The vigorous antics suggest the most naturalistic of Verhoeven's films, though the story is a virtual compendium of the director's sardonic worldview, life soaked with looming appetites and omens, fate's hand showing as a bag of orange peels tossed from a car, and Rutger Hauer naturally as the main role-model, the racing champ. Tongeren, paralyzed in an accident, is wheeled into a swaying revivalist meeting for a mock-miracle, cruelly undercut, while Agterberg's forced bout of buttfucking ensure that this is not just a coming-of-age plot, but a coming-out plot -- "Dad, I'm gay," only for him to be belted by the dour Bible-thumper. Far from cynical, Verhoeven's beady toughness remains close to the characters' loves, aches and ambitions, as unjudgmental of Tongeren's highway demise as of Soutendijk's canny "whore of Babylon" golddigger, or anyone who understands a life-and-dog-food metaphor when they see one. With Marianne Boyer, Peter Tuinman, Hans Veerman, and Jeroen Krabbé.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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