A year from now, when I am putting together my list of the great films of 2006, near the top of the list you can surely expect to find Hostel, Quentin Tarantino's Eli Roth's delicious satire of innocents abroad, a social farce as wry and pointed as the best work of Evelyn Waugh or Oscar Wilde.

The film tells the story of two American college graduates backpacking through Europe with an Icelandic man they met in France. Clearly, such a globetrotting setup is rife with possibilities for commentary on the very idea of "nationality" and "identity." And the film picks this ball up and runs with it, constantly maneuvering from one Iceland joke to the next with such exaggerated aplomb that we quickly realize the filmmakers have played a trick on us, and snicker behind their hands at our willingness to accept such a limiting role as "Icelandic" for this Renaissance man of the modern age.

But the true satiric heart of the film lies in its treatment of callous American entitlement. The rousing, comic first line of the film is, "Amsterdam, motherfuckers!" shouted by the white one (Derek Richardson) with all the lusty joy of a young man feeling his oats. Actually, it may be the Hispanic one (Jay Hernandez) who has that line. But either way, it expresses the inelegant and pure joie de vivre of American touristing. The film is quick to undercut this baseless feeling of delight, though, sardonically pointing out that most of the people haunting Amsterdam's nightclubs are themselves - wait for it - Americans! Très amusant! Thus, despite the quality of the Amsterdam whores and marijuna, the three travelers find themselves pining for excitement and exoticism. Yes, the droll conceit of the film is that Amsterdam is too boring for these Americans! This realization was expressed so dryly that I nearly choked on my Brandy Alexander when I realized it.

Now we come to the core of the film, and its wickedest satire yet. Upon the suggestion of a weird little Russian man, the backpackers journey to a small city near Bratislava, Slovakia. There they check into a hostel simply bursting with licentious women, mere blocks away from a rave club. Ah, the easy wish fulfillment of the young! That your silly little lives should be built around Ecstasy and tits! (The taking of Ecstasy and the fondling of tits are both wickedly omnipresent in this sequence). But all is not so easy, and as we know from other films of this genre (which is "horror," despite its obvious satiric elements), the wages of tits are death.

Thus the last and I dare say funniest sequence, in which the travelers are, one by one, captured by a mysterious cabal that locks them in a basement and sells them for extraordinary prices to insane businessmen who perform hideous acts of dismemberment on them (I should have put a spoiler warning on the businessman thing, so pretend you didn't read it) (oh, and the rest is a spoiler). The white one dies on camera in a short, minimally gory sequence, involving his Achilles tendons being slashed, and something with a scalpel, and most importantly a drill, driven into his thigh (to which I chortled, "Ah, who is being violently penetrated now, eh?" Such wicked satire this be!).

But to the Hispanic one comes the greatest stretch of this dizzy absurdity. He is captured later, and sold to a German man (the one false note in the film, as I found its apalling use of Nazi imagery heavy-handed and offensive) who cuts four of the Hispanic one's fingers off with a chainsaw ("haha, the same fingers you shoved up that Eurowhore's asshole, no doubt!"). Foolishly, as this allows the Hispanic one to escape, grabbing the German's gun and turning it on him. The next twenty minutes are a witty caricature of American machismo, as the Hispanic one is able to run through the murder compound even while he should be quickly bleeding to death from his multiple lost digits and several other wounds. I won't give away the ending, save to comment on one scene: the Hispanic one eventually reaches a locker room, where he changes into a clean suit (with gloves, thankfully!). While there, a patron of the murder club comes in, about to head off for his own victim, and get this - he's American, too! Quite the nimble twist on Lolita's theme of the corpse of Europe fucking the vibrant young America - instead we have wealthy old America coming to Europe to destroy poor young America! Such a brave satire! Actually, I don't entirely know what it's a satire of, but I'm sure it must be very clever.

5/10