303) The Fourth Man (1983) Dir: Paul Verhoeven Date Released: June 27, 1984 Date Seen: September 22, 2012 Rating: 3.75/5
There are a handful of filmmakers whose work I've been slowly stockpiling in the event of A) depression B) a rainy day C) days when I realize B is actually code for A. Albert Brooks, Spike Lee, Paul Verhoeven, Pedro Almodovar, Robert Altman and Richard Fleischer come to mind. Anyway, so I now own all of Verhoeven's Dutch features...or at least, almost all of them (I might be missing one or two without even realizing it). So when Event B occurred on September 22nd, I finally dug into the shoeboxes of VHS tapes I've been slowly amassing for seven years now. I'm not a VHS nostalgist, but I don't strongly dislike tapes, and there are a number of films that are still only available on VHS and/or OOP on DVD. So, The Fourth Man.
The Fourth Man strikes me as a perfectly good neo-noir but one that, like me, gets in its own way too often to be really effective. Right now, it's a very good stylistic exercise because Verhoeven's main conceit is expressed in a fairly monotonous way: a narcissistic writer with a Jesus Complex gets his egotistical bubble burst after he shacks up with a woman that he only THINKS is a femme fatale. The ego-busting in question is however only as striking as it is perversely disturbing. Meaning: I wanted there to be more stuff directly relating Verhoeven's weird Christ fetish (oh, he still has one; in fact, he recently wrote a book about Jesus!) and this particular film's abbatoir violence. I loved the film's James Cain-inspired narrative, but was a little puzzled by the film's more outre/prickly/idiosyncratically provocative themes. If you're out there, Victor Morton, it's me, Simon Abrams, and I'm all ears.
Right now, The Fourth Man is the kind of film that I hope/suspect will only grow in my mind and mutate into something startling and new after I watch more of Verhoeven's Dutch films. Stranger things, right?