People love seeing violence and horrible things. The human being is bad and he can't stand more than five minutes of happiness. Put him in a dark theater and ask him to look at two hours of happiness and he'd walk out or fall asleep.
Paul Verhoeven is an extreme director. Gratuitous violence (RoboCop, Total Recall, Starship Troopers) and gratuitous sexuality (Basic Instinct, Showgirls) are his trademarks.
First and foremost, it must be said that Paul Verhoeven's films exceed his "love of tits" and taste for explicit human suffering; though these qualities can often come across as excessively loud, they do not signify a neglect of plot. Verhoeven's films use cheap tricks to draw the viewer in, but the fact that that viewer remains "in", and leaves feeling satisified, is representative of Verhoeven's knack for producing a very Hollywood sort of entertainment.
The adjective "controversial" is often attached to Paul Verhoeven, but this is not entirely fair. The eye finds the image he provides controversial; the guy flipping television channels is drawn into a Verhoevenian scene by the outrage or potent enticement of what is beheld. It is the bad guy who RoboCop sends into the raw sewage that makes one think "controversial", it is the drill sergeant in Starship Troopers barking "Put your hand on that wall!!" that registers so loudly to the eye--it is not that he puts "tits" and guns in his films that makes him controversial, but rather the tits (3-breasted whore in Total Recall) and guns (ED-209) themselves.
Born in Amsterdam 1938, Paul Verhoeven studied mathematics and physics at the University of Leiden. Upon graduation, he entered the Royal Netherlands Navy, where he would eventually obtain his first formal cinematic experience. The precocious Dutchman began with work on documentaries for the military; his The Marine Corps (Het Corps Mariniers) would later receive the French military film award, the Silver Sun.
In 1969, a civilian once more, Verhoevon made his commercial debut with Floris, a "12-episode television adventure series" starring Rutger Hauer, which established Verhoeven as an up-and-coming force in the Dutch entertainment world; it would not be long before Verhoeven became the force.
His 1971 comedy Wat Zien Ik (known in english as alternately Any Special Way, Business Is Business, and Diary of a Hooker) is still the fourth highest grossing movie in his country's history. This film was followed by Turks Fruit and Keetje Tippel, which were in turn followed by Soldier Of Orange (Soldaat Van Oranje); Soldier is still widely regarded as one of the crowning achievements in the history of Dutch film. Verhoeven both wrote and directed it.
Verhoeven's first english-language film was Flesh & Blood (1985), but it was only with RoboCop two years later that he ensured a place of influence for himself forever in Hollywood. Total Recall, Basic Instinct, and Starship Troopers would meet with comparable success, though Showgirls seemed to have more people mocking it than viewing it.
Though Verhoeven's Hollow Man (2000) was relatively unsuccessful, it is only a matter of time before something explosive hits theaters with his name on it. It will be massively violent and/or gratuitously sexualized, and it will be compelling entertainment.