If the Third Reich had won World War II, pop entertainment would look a lot like Paul Verhoevens gleefully sardonic send-up of Gulf War-era jingoism a poker-faced paean to the citizen soldier as propaganda-snowed meathead. Representing the forces of good, in a futuristic war for the fate of man, are human Velveeta sculpture Casper Van Dien, his bud Neil Patrick Harris (in a Casablanca Nazi get-up) and dozens of the most clean-scrubbed, square-jawed, expendable recruits youve ever seen. The baddies brain-hungry insects so loathsome you may miss the minor detail that theyre not the aggressors set about beheading, spearing, quartering, disemboweling and skull-sucking anyone within reach of their mandibles. (This was easily the goriest big-budget major-studio picture to date in 1996.) In much the spirit of their sci-fi satire Robocop, Verhoeven and screenwriter Ed Neumeier (adapting a Robert A. Heinlein book) adopt the flag-waving tone of a 1940s rally-the-troops tubthumper, only to subvert the jollity with buckets of blood, pervasive kink and lip-smacking sadism. The movie wasnt a hit when released, but Verhoevens berserk irony, coupled with all that ultraviolence, has made it a late-night favorite and subsequent years of saber-rattling have only made it look better.
Sat., March 20, midnight; Sun., March 21, midnight, 2010