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Basic Instinct 2 Print E-mail
Tuesday, 01 August 2006

Image When “Basic Instinct” was released 14 years ago, it caused a sensation and turned Sharon Stone into a star—or something resembling a star—at once. It was far from her first movie, but when she insolently crossed her silken legs, driving interrogator Wayne Knight into a kind of frenzy, the world followed suit. As directed by Paul Verhoeven, “Basic Instinct” was intense, ironic, and not to be taken too seriously.

As directed by Michael Caton-Jones, “Basic Instinct 2” is good-looking, but plodding and weary. The script by Leora Barish and Henry Bean—evidently written years earlier—is obvious and cluttered with unlikable characters. We really don’t give a damn what happens to anyone in the story, and that’s deadly for a suspense movie.

Catherine Tramell (Sharon Stone), who writes as Catherine Woolfe, is now in London. As she’s roaring through the streets at night being masturbated by a dazed-looking soccer star, she reaches an orgasm as the car plunges into the Thames. She gets out all right, the athlete goes down with the car. She’s interrogated this time by police detective Roy Washburn (David Thewlis), and as usual for Catherine, she’s snide, aloof and icy, highly manipulative. Court-appointed psychiatrist Dr. Michael Glass (David Morrissey) also interviews her, but finds nothing to suggest that she deliberate killed her passenger.

He was divorced from Denise (Indira Varma) recently, and is attracted to the scary Catherine. At first, he refuses her disarming request to become a regular patient, but finally gives in. Of course, he soon wishes he hadn’t. A previous case he was involved in keeps coming back to haunt Glass, usually in the person of a nosy tabloid journalist (Hugh Dancy). His friend Milena Gardosh (Charlotte Rampling, always welcome) is trying to help him get appointed to a prestigious position, which requires impressing an influential, arrogant doctor (Heathcote Williams). But then the journalist is murdered. Glass is invited to view the murder scene by Washburn, and happens upon a lighter he recognizes as Catherine’s. He hides the evidence. The sessions with Catherine become increasingly erotic, and he finds himself falling in love with her; they begin a passionate affair—but more murders continue, coming closer and closer to Michael himself.

There’s very little in this movie, other than Sharon Stone, to connect it with the far superior “Basic Instinct.” Here, Catherine is onscreen so much, and so cruelly ironic and taunting, that she doesn’t engage even our slightest sympathy. And she’s so often much the same as we last saw her that she wears out her welcome quickly. Stone is a limited actor to begin with; the right director can draw a good performance out of her (such as Scorsese did in “Casino”), but Michael Caton-Jones seems to have left her to her own devices. Furthermore, she’s clearly had plastic surgery, so she only resembles the Sharon Stone of “Basic Instinct” #1.

David Morressey is a relatively routine actor himself, and his role here is far from challenging. He’s just the sort-of-nice-guy to whom bad things keep happening. Even the very flavorful David Thewlis is pretty much trapped in a role that allows him few opportunities to display any character traits. Only Charlotte Rampling, a fine old pro, gets through the film with her head held high.

This is one of Sony’s first Blu-Ray releases, and it’s an odd choice. The movie is mostly set at night or indoors; colors are subdued and the lighting is low. Everything is relatively dark and dim, so the increased clarity of high-definition video is largely wasted. During one of Catherine’s first sessions with Dr. Glass, a closeup of Stone shows what might be video artifacts swarming around on her neck just below her jaw line. However, these might also be an attempt to remove unflattering wrinkles or surgery marks via CGI. In any event, it’s distracting and shouldn’t be there.

A few nighttime cityscapes are impressive in high-definition, with the buildings standing out clearly, one from the other. And the large, spindle-shaped building where Dr. Glass has his office, a real structure in London, is an unusual location and reasonably attractive, if coldly schematic. A scene in which Glass finds another character with a slashed throat, on the verge of death, is shockingly gory, and the high definition makes the blood seem almost palpably warm and sticky. If that’s your idea of a good time.

The sound is much the same. Most of the film takes place indoors or in confined spaces, so the surround sound, though always present, has no opportunity to open up. Like the rest of the film, technically the sound is competent and professional—but it’s all to a trivial end.

It’s rare for fourteen years to pass between an original film and its sequel; usually such projects are shelved rather than committed to film. That probably should have been done with “Basic Instinct 2.” It’s not a terrible film, but it’s so routine, with such unpleasant characters in a distasteful story, that there’s really no reason to see it.

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