Spetters is Paul Verhoeven's fifth film, which follows 3 young men against a backdrop of Dirt Bike Racing. This film again teams Verhoeven with both Rutger Hauer and Jeroen Krabbé, although their roles are more like extended cameos, with Hauer having less than 10 minutes screen time. Although the 3 male leads are all unknown actors, the female lead is played by Renée Soutendijk, who went on to star in the low budget Terminator rip-off, Eve Of Destruction,
The word Spetters is a now unused slang word with a similar meaning to “Hunks”, “Hot Young Guys” or even “Hot Shots”, but also has a second meaning in that it can refer to the hot splashes of oil that come from deep fat fryers. This is quite an appropriate name considering that Soutendijk's character runs a chip van alongside her brother. Hating the way her job makes her smell of grease and oil, she sees the 3 guys as a way out of that lifestyle. After initially helping one of the men get sponsorship for his Dirt Biking, which should then lead to a successful career in the sport, things take a turn for the tragic, so she moves onto one of his friends instead.
After the critical cinematic success of Soldier Of Orange, this film feels like a step back for Verhoeven as it sees him return to the gritty realistic drama for the first time since Turkish Delight. In fact, that film is referenced during a fake sex scene, as a character suggests moaning a lot like they do in “Turks Fruit”. This scene offers the film a rare comedic moment in what is otherwise quite a bleak movie, featuring a rather graphic scene of a gay gang rape of one of the characters, and the suicide of another. Despite this, the film does end on an optimistic note.
I read that when Showgirls was critically mauled, Verhoeven was unfazed as he had already gone through all of that with this film as when it was released, it received a lot of criticism as being anti-gay, anti-disabled, anti-women and anti-Christian. Although, despite a religious character being shown as a despicably violent person, others are shown in a better light.
As for the anti-gay criticisms, this is understandable as one of the characters goes about violently mugging members of the gay community as he comes to terms with his own homosexuality. However, the notion that it takes being gang-raped by a group of men for him to realise that he enjoys gay sex is quite offensive, reminding me of the infamous rape scene in Straw Dogs.
In a film set against the backdrop of Dirt Bike Racing, the film does have some quite impressive stunts performed by the actual cast, such as riding the bike over a Volkswagen Beetle without helmet. There are also some interesting moments of cinematic brilliance such as a remarkably well shot moment where a character is trying to get healed during a religious ceremony, with the light in the background forming a halo round his head. This is an image that Verhoeven more famously revisits during his first American movie, Flesh And Blood.
IMDB currently gives the film 6.6, which is again pretty accurate. Not as bad as some of the criticisms suggest, but still nowhere near as great as some of Verhoeven's best work.