Basic Instinct 2 review by Mike Long

OK, let me set the scene: It was March, 1992. For months, the hype had been building around a movie called Basic Instinct. The film was supposed to be incredibly erotic and audiences were prepared to be shocked by it. Being a fan of director Paul Verhoeven, I was certainly interested in seeing the movie. Well, I saw (on opening night, if memory serves) and I found the movie to be silly and didn't think that it was the least bit shocking or erotic. (I have to admit that when I reviewed the movie at the time, I predicted that it would flop.) Well, the most shocking thing for me about Basic Instinct was that the movie went on to be a huge hit. So, it wasn't necessarily surprising when producers called for a sequel to the movie. Thus, here we are, fourteen years later and Basic Instinct 2 is here. Again, I stand shockless.

Basic Instinct 2 takes place in London and opens with Catherine Trammell (Sharon Stone) driving her sports car off of a bridge, thus killing her passenger, a famous soccer player. She is taken into custody and due to the strange circumstances surrounding the crash, suspected of murder. Because of this, Catherine is subjected to a psychological evaluation by Dr. Michael Glass (David Morrissey). Catherine toys with Glass and he decides that she is a narcissistic thrill-seeker who is addicted to taking risk. Despite this assessment, Catherine is released. Much to Glass’ surprise, Catherine visits him, asking him to be her therapist. He reluctantly agrees, and Catherine fills their sessions with talk of sex and violence.

Meanwhile, people around Michael -- both friends and enemies -- begin to die. Because of her behavior, he begins to suspect that Catherine is behind these killings. Years ago, Glass had been involved with a patient who committed murder and he wants to be very sure before he accuses Catherine. This leads him to become obsessed with her and as he is dragged into Catherine’s world, he begins to lose grasp on what is real.

I won’t turn this review into a discussion of why Basic Instinct 2 was made (money is clearly the answer) or how waiting so long to make a sequel was a mistake. No, I will simply critique the movie for what it is...which isn’t much.

Basic Instinct 2 walks the odd fine line of being a sequel -- it features a character from a previous film -- and yet also wishing to be a stand-alone movie. To be perfectly honest, I really don’t remember much from Basic Instinct (except that I didn’t like it). I was concerned that this would be a problem going into the sequel and at first, it was, as the movie simply started and never gave any real details about who Catherine was. But, I slowly began to realize that recollections about the first film were unnecessary, as Basic Instinct 2 was attempting to do its own thing. It’s only in the third act does someone mention the fact that Catherine had been charged with murder once before.

And that’s the kind of hare-brained plotting which cripples this film. This is a very dumb movie and even if one watches it with an open mind, it’s very hard to take it seriously or believe any of it. Why is Catherine released when the evidence against her is so strong? Michael’s mentor, Dr. Gardosh (Charlotte Rampling), meets Catherine at a party, but doesn’t recognize her...despite the fact that Michael has consulted her about the case and despite the fact that Catherine has been all over the media. And my biggest problem with the film, why does everyone become obsessed with a woman who is so clearly a crazy bitch? The story is a maze of plot-twists which are simply confusing instead of intriguing and the ending is not satisfying.

Lame plotting aside, as with the first film, the biggest question surrounding Basic Instinct 2 is what about the sexuality? And the answer is, yeh, it’s there. However, only the most severe prude would be shocked by this film. Essentially, the “shocking” thing about Basic Instinct 2 is supposed to be the fact that the main character is a woman who uses crude sexual terms instead of euphemisms. If that kind of talk shocks you, then watching Basic Instinct 2 will be like sitting in an electric chair. If you’re like most people, you’ve heard harsh language before and it shouldn’t be all that disconcerting. There are a few sex scenes and some examples of bondage-type behavior, but again, I’ve seen more provocative images on MTV. As for Sharon Stone, I don’t begrudge the fact that she’s 48 and gets naked in the movie, I begrudge the fact that she got naked in a crappy movie.

Speaking of Stone, she’s OK in the movie, as she’s clearly good at playing this kind of role. And again, it’s been 14 years since I saw Basic Instinct, but her transition to the sequel seems to be seamless. David Morrissey is a poor-man’s Liam Neeson and brings no personality to the role of Michael Glass. He’s meant to be the audience’s connection to the film, but it’s difficult to feel anything for him. Supporting actors such as David Thewlis, Charlotte Rampling, and Hugh Dancy should really be in a better movie.

So, as with the original film, Basic Instinct 2 left me cold. The movie fails as both a murder-mystery and soft-core porn. While the first film at least had a campy spirit (thanks to Joe Eszterhas’ dialogue), this movie is simply boring. You would think that after 14 years the makers of Basic Instinct 2 would have made a great sequel, but alas, the whole affair is quite flaccid.

Basic Instinct 2 seduces DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.40:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image looks pretty good, as the picture is clear, showing no intrusive grain and no defects from the source material. For the most part, the image is sharp, but it’s also noticeably soft, lacking detail in certain scenes. The colors are fine and the film’s noir look is never overly dark. The DVD contains a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. This track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The music in the film sounds fine and the use of dance music in some scenes reveals a smooth bass sound. The stereo effects are solid and the use of surround sound effects is reserved for crowd scenes or musical cues, but they work well.

Basic Instinct 2 is coming to DVD in two separate editions. For this review, the “Unrated Extended Edition” was screened, but as I haven’t seen the theatrical cut, I can’t say where the two minutes of additional footage come in.

The DVD does contain only a few extras. Director Michael Caton-Jones delivers a droning, monotone Audio Commentary in which he talks in-depth about the actual making of the film and about the casting as well. But, he’s incredibly emotionless when discussing the proceedings and the chat grows very dull after a short while. The DVD contains 10 Deleted Scenes which feature optional commentary by Caton-Jones. These scenes don’t really offer anything new, especially the “Alternate Ending” which contains one new line of dialogue. “Between the Sheets: A Look Inside Basic Instinct 2“ (11 minutes) is a making-of featurette featuring comments from the cast and crew. There is a great deal of emphasis placed on the idea that the film could be a stand-alone movie. The segment offers an in-depth look at the opening crash scene.

2 out of 10 Jackasses

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