A film review by Craig J. Koban

 

 
 

2006

 

BASIC INSTINCT 2 ½j

2006, R, 113 mins.

Catherine Tramell: Sharon Stone / Dr. Michael Glass: David Morrissey / Milena Gardosh: Charlotte Rampling / Roy Washburn: David Thewlis / Adam Tower: Hugh Dancy / Denise Glass: Indira Varma / Dr. Jakob Gerst: Heathcote Williams

Directed by Michael Caton-Jones /  Written by Leora Barish and Henry Bean

BASIC INSTINCT 2 sure had a long and sorted history making it to the silver screen.  We all remember the first erotically charged 1992 thriller, which - in itself - was not an altogether successful film, but it did introduce us to a wholly original character in the form of Catherine Trammel.   She was a sexpot played to bisexual, hedonistic perfection by the then relatively unknown Sharon Stone. 

That first film (written by the master of sleaze, Joe Esterhaus and directed by the master of mayhem and gratuitous gore, Paul Verhoeven) penetrated (no pun intended) American movie audiences with its incredibly explicit scenes of sexuality mixed in with a violent murder mystery story.  Surely, Esterhaus and Verhoeven made going to see a soft-core film a lot of inane fun.  Audiences flocked to the film and it became a gigantic hit.  Eroticism - for the first time - went seriously mainstream in terms of its widespread appeal.  The fact that people across North America paid a combined $120 million dollars in ticket sales to see stars Michael Douglas and Stone writhe around in a perpetual state of orgasmic glee is a testament to the film’s popularity.

Okay, so I am getting off track – back to BASIC INSTINCT 2.  The first film proved so triumphant that an inevitable sequel seemed to be on the horizon.  But, as stated, BASIC INSTINCT 2 (originally subtitled RISK ADDICTION, which was abandoned…thank God!) sure seemed to take a long time to see fruition at the multiplexes.  By my calculator, this sequel took 14 years to get made.  This could be a good thing for certain films (obviously, fan interest was reaching rabid proportions waiting for the newest STAR WARS film in 1999, seeing as they had not had a film in that series in 16 years at the time).  Yet, I am not really sure if the lay film going public was desperate to see another sex laced romp with Sharon Stone.  Okay, maybe they wanted to see the sex, but how desperate could modern audiences be?  It’s not like anyone today would flock to the theatres to see a film like…say…that was a remake of THE DUKES OF HAZZARD TV show…right? 

Anyways, I continue to get off track here – back to BASIC INSTINCT 2.  The film languished in production hell for many years with a list of talent aboard that could have made any producer satisfied.  For directing choirs, men like David Cronenberg, Jan de Bont, John McTiernan, and even Paul Verhoeven were slated to direct the film.  Cronenberg apparently opted out because the producers did not want him to make the film with his own crew.  It's not clear why McTiernan and De Bont opted out.  Maybe they thought they could make vastly superior entertainments like TWISTER, SPEED 2, TOMB RAIDER 2: THE CRADLE OF LIFE, and ROLLERBALL respectively during their time.  Verhoeven opted out because he stated that he wanted to focus more on making films in his native Netherlands.  Hmmmm…I don’t recall SHOWGIRLS and HOLLOW MAN being Dutch entertainments, but I digress.

Dang…getting off topic again – back to BASIC INSTINCT 2.  Okay, so the film had a hard time settling on a director until they finally arrived at getting Michael Caton-Jones, who made one of the best films of the 1990’s in ROB ROY.  Okay, not a bad choice, but the producers still had a hard time getting a lead actor.  The list of leading men that were apparently tapped to star in the film is impressive, to say the least.  Robert Downey Jr. was approached, but had to bail out because he was charged with felony drug possession (lucky break!).  Kurt Russell expressed interest but balked when the former child Disney star realized he would have to do tons of nudity.  007 Pierce Brosnan was thought of at one point, but decided not to do the film due to its unflattering elements (the fact that he would go on to play one of his most amoral characters of his career in THE MATADOR proves to be ironic).  And, yes, Han Solo himself was - at least by publicist reports - expressing interest.  Apparently, he got out when the film was not going to be made in the US.  Can I spit out a collective sigh of relieve for all film fans?  I just can’t imagine my childhood hero reduce himself down to engage in kinky sex with Stone and offer up gravely-voiced, would-be one liners in his recent-characteristic monosyllabic tone.  Just imagine some of the possibilities (i.e. – in Ford modulation, “I’m gonna please you all night long, and then I’m going to find the killer of your lesbian lover!”).

Geez…how deceptively easy it is for me to get off track again – back to BASIC INSTINCT 2.  The final nail in the coffin for the sequel’s time in production hell may have been Stone herself.  She initially refused to do a sequel early on, but then realized the error of her ways.  The film saw production difficulties in 2000 and 2001, so much so that Stone sued the producers for stalling the film, which resulted in her not being able to take other great, lucrative roles (maybe she should have sued the makers of CATWOMAN instead).  Nevertheless, she sued for $100 million in damages.  When she was making CATWOMAN maybe she reached a point of absolute desperation in her career, as she then decided to drop the charges.  BASIC INSTINCT 2 was a go, but at a price for the producers.  In a shrewd business deal, she decided to sign on to a "pay or play" deal, which essentially meant that she would get financially compensated even if the film didn't get made at all.   Hmmm…if she only signed similar arrangements for SLIVER, SPHERE, THE SPECIALIST, and CATWOMAN?

Okay…you may be wondering where the hell I am going with this review, because so far it has not really been one.  But, alas, I gave you all of this incessant gossip and hearty details about the troubled production history of the film to illustrate one singular notion – watching a film about the history of making BASIC INSTINCT 2 would have been monumentally more satisfying than watching the actual BASIC INSTINCT 2.  At the risk of sounding childish and – again – with no pun intended, this film really blows.

There is one asset to the film and that is to gaze at the lovely visage of Stone herself.  She generates the only minimal spark that a film like this needs to create any electricity.  According to the IMBD.com, Stone was born in 1958, which makes her 48, which further allows her to easily be my mother and - inevitably - also allows me to confidently proclaim her to be a M.I.L.F..  For a women pushing over a half a century on this planet, she sure looks incredibly fetching - a true sight to behold.  Now, if only the rest of the film was as eye-popping and as sultry as she is.

So…where else do I begin with the “actual” review?  How about with the plot.  It seems that murder/mystery author Catherine has not been spending much of her time in San Francisco anymore (as she did in the first film).  Nick Curran (you know, the Michael Douglas character) is a distant memory and Catherine now lives out her mischievous ways in London.  The opening of the film shows her driving incredibly fast with her new lover in a sports car.  Her one hand is driving stick while the other is...well…use your imagination.

Soon, she is in a horrible accident and her lover dies.  When she is brought to the police station she is questioned by Inspector Washburn (the decent David Thewlis).  She eventually goes to court and she is further mandated to undergo psychological evaluations.  Michael Glass (David Morrissey) takes on the challenge, but he surely does not know what he is getting into.  Soon, more bodies start showing up everywhere with the guilt pointing right to Catherine.  She, of course, is a master at manipulation and mind-screwing and is able to deflect blame off of herself and on to both the police Inspector and the good doctor, both of whom may also have motives for the killings.

BASIC INSTINCT 2 commits so many cinematic sins that postulating them was the only thing that kept me awake while watching it.  The first BASIC INSTINCT had an over-the-top and wanton exuberance; it never took itself nearly as seriously as this film does.  Canton-Jones thinks he’s making a much more thought provoking film than it actually is.  The story itself tries to spin a convoluted web of deceit and guilt, but anyone with a head on their shoulders should be able to dissect it within minutes.  This is a thriller that lacks intrigue altogether - never a good sign.

Then there is the role of Catherine herself, whom I think is a feisty creation.  She is fascinating, on certain basic levels, as a persona.  She is a nymphomaniac that parades around on a never-ending mission to maneuver and control all others around her.  Stone forges a performance that is not “good” by standard definitions, but she is “good” at her part for what it demands of her.  She is appropriately seedy, seductive, conniving, and – for the most part – seems to have fun with reprising her role.  She’s a smart enough actress to know that to play a role as broad as this is to go head first into the domain of perverse caricature.  If only the rest of the film had that same level of silly, camp appeal.  Stone, in hindsight, is the only reason to watch this film, and she inhabits the role with the necessary, histrionic and hammy sneer of a vampy sex kitten. 

As for the film’s other sins?  David Morrissey is so horribly miscast as the lead opposite of Stone.  He is so bland and lacking in any sort of energy or urgency as an actor.  He also plays his role with the stone cold conviction of a man that is starring in a Jane Austin adaptation.  It’s a shame that no one seemed to remind him that he was in a sex-fuelled romp, not SENSE AND SENSIBILITY.  And as for the sex itself?  "Vacant" would be an apt descriptor.  The first film had a cheerfully entertaining level of offensiveness – the scenes of sensualistic pleasure were numerous.  By my calculations, the sex scenes in BASIC INSTINCT 2 were so few and far between that it could easily be labeled as a huge let down just on that sick level.  For a film that wants to be about twisted, carnal pleasure and talks about sex and the details of fornication so bloody often, BASIC INSTINCT 2 has an alarming lack of actual sex in it.  What results is a film that is unrelentingly tedious, lifeless, and unremittingly boring.  "Rule Number One" of kinky sex thrillers – have lots of sex in them.  At least that will stop audience members from checking their watches constantly.  Without any genuine eroticism to be had, watching this film was about as fun as contracting an STD.

Only the most desperate and lonely of hearts will approach BASIC INSTINCT 2 with any amount of discernible interest.  After suffering what has to be one of the most appallingly awful sequels of all time, I realized that one must suffer from a “risk addiction” to throw ten bucks out our your pocket to see this.  This is a magnificent and daring exercise in throwaway, disposable, and trashy entertainment.  Like the bodies that pile up in the film, BASIC INSTINCT 2 is completely dead on arrival.  It’s not thrilling, it’s not involving, and it’s not compelling.  Dammit…it’s not even a good, tawdry, camp infested soft core film.  When the nudity and sex quotient is low for a film that wants to be a vulgar exercise in T & A and masochistic sex, then you know you’re in trouble.  But on a positive note…Stone looks fantastic for 48.

 
 

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