[box cover]

Basic Instinct 2

The funniest comedy of 2006 was sadly mis-marketed as a thriller. But don't be fooled — Basic Instinct 2 is absolutely hilarious. The question, of course, is whether or not that was intentional. We open on our heroine, Catherine Tramell (Sharon Stone), as she speeds through the completely deserted streets of London in her Ferrari Spider. This is obviously post-apocalypse London, or perhaps a V for Vendetta London where all the citizenry are locked up tight in their houses after 11 p.m., because there is no one on the streets. Catherine's companion is a burly black man who's stoned, drunk or drugged. He tells her that he can't feel his legs. His hands seem to work just fine, though, as Catherine snakes one of them under her skirt and he diddles her to orgasm, as she laughs like a hyena and drives the car off a bridge into the river. After a half-hearted attempt to free him from his seatbelt, she opens her window and swims away, surfacing to more quiet and no bystanders because, as mentioned above, everybody's either dead or locked in their houses… so nobody saw or heard a sportscar crash through a huge glass barrier, fly off the bridge and splash loudly into the water. Then again, apparently someone noticed, because Catherine's brought in for questioning by the police. She chats with a suspicious detective (David Thewlis) who thinks that, well, she might have had something to do with the fellow's death. She didn't kill him, she insists, smirkily telling Cop Man that her companion "was alive — he was making me come." Gack. It's bad enough we had to see that, now she's gonna talk about it, too.

That opening sets the tone for the entire film. One suspects that the hacktastic screenwriting team of Henry Bean and Leora Barish were Dumpster-diving in Hollywood and found a pile of unshot "Sex and the City" scripts, cut out all of Samantha's entendre-drenched, ham-fisted dialogue and pasted them onto new sheets of paper, then wrote a script around it. "You were having sex at a hundred miles an hour?" asks Cop Man. "A hundred and ten," smarms Catherine. "Unless we hit a pothole." She can't even look around for a chair to talk to a cop like a normal person — she has to slide off her coat and slurm, "Is this where we're gonna do it?" Catherine starts seeing a shrink named Michael Glass, played by David Morrissey, who's an eerie combination of Colin Firth, Liam Neeson, and a slab of drywall, and who lets us know that his character's all hot and bothered by Catherine's dirty talk by clenching his jaw a lot and… well, that's it, really. If he didn't have other characters around him to say, "She's getting to you, isn't she?" and "You're in love with her!" we'd really have no idea what he was thinking. Despite working overtime to be all about sex, Basic Instinct 2 is a blazingly inhuman movie, never letting us forget for a moment that we're watching made-up characters being paraded around in ridiculous, unbelievable ways, from Catherine's collection of phallic lighters that look like architectural landmarks to the way Thewlis's cop, despite finding curare in the dead guy's system and a fistful of drug-laced hypodermic needles in Catherine's river-plunged car, can't come up with a solid reason to charge her with anything. It's the sort of film where a one character calls another on a cell phone, asks, "Are you near a television?" and — ta-da! — there, on a busy London street, is a 35-inch flatscreen tuned to the very news report that the script demands we watch. What may throw the casual viewer off-kilter is that the picture is remarkably well-directed by Michael Caton-Jones — it's pretty to look at, tightly edited, and zips along at a nice pace. It's a solid, shiny foundation for the stupendously awful acting and dialogue. And while Catherine is being treated for "risk addiction" by Glass, after the opening bridge-plunge we see no risky behavior from her — unless you want to categorize chain smoking, too much plastic surgery, and sporting hooker-like evening wear during the day as "risky." It ought to be too bad to be funny. Every scene with Stone sitting in a chair teases with the possibility of another crotch-shot. And her voiceovers of Catherine's "bestselling" dialogue are a hoot — "He yanked on her long hair like a rider pulling on a horse's mane…" Although, if you think about it, that's not any worse than what Michael Crichton and Dan Brown get away with.

*          *          *

Sony's DVD release of Basic Instinct 2 features a solid anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Extras include a commentary track with director Michael Caton-Jones, the featurette "Between the Sheets: A Look Inside Basic Instinct 2" (11 min.), and nine deleted scenes and an alternate ending with optional director's commentary and "play all". Keep-case.
—Dawn Taylor

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