March 30, 2006

“Basic” flaw — an unsexy erotic thriller

By Kirk Honeycutt

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - You can't keep a bad
woman down. With a worldwide box office gross of $350 million
and a career-transforming role for Sharon Stone as the
seductive and possibly deadly novelist Catherine Tramell, work
on a sequel to 1992's "Basic Instinct" has been under way for

What finally comes together in "Basic Instinct 2" is a case
of more of the same -- but not the same thing. The original
film, a giddy pulp-fiction stew of sex, seduction and murder,
afforded director Paul Verhoeven a shock corridor in which he
coupled the unbridled eroticism of his earlier Dutch films with
images of brutal violence and death. Love it or hate it, the
film, written by Joe Eszterhas, was a tour de force of
provocation in which a femme fatale and a corrupt cop throw
decorum to the wind to romp in a sun-drenched California,
featuring camera angles worthy of Hitchcock and a nerve-teasing
score by Jerry Goldsmith.

By contrast, "Instinct 2" takes place in cool, sleek and
dark postmodern London with cavernous interiors, often
monochromatic surfaces and shadows everywhere. The director
this time is British, Michael Caton-Jones, and he makes the sex
scenes off-putting and dirty -- but not dirty in the right way.
You sense his distaste just as you sensed Verhoeven's
enthusiastic voyeurism. Complicating matters, the sequel,
written by Leora Barish and Henry Bean, gets trapped by the
need to repeat themes and scenes from the original rather than
boldly explore a new terrain.

Stone is back as the bad-girl novelist. But Michael
Douglas' San Francisco cop is gone, replaced by David
Morrissey's cold-fish shrink, Dr. Michael Glass. No offense to
Morrissey, but that's a let-down that unsettles the balance
between a man and woman titter-tottering on the very brink of
the law. The minute you see Glass, you know he's no match for
Tramell: This Glass is bound to shatter.

The title and Stone's name ensure a good two weeks at the
box office, and perhaps some moviegoers might even like a tamer
sex thriller where much is predictable though certainly not
logical. Dialogue often is hilarious -- "Even the truth is a
lie with her!" shrieks David Thewlis' police detective about
Tramell -- the sexual roundelays put soap operas to shame, and
the solution to all the murders is offered up without a shred
of credibility. If any of this takes, then a decent worldwide
gross is possible for "Instinct 2."

The movie's original subtitle, since dropped, was "Risk
Addiction," which expresses the new film's take on Catherine.
She is a risk addict, thriving on danger and needing to take
greater and greater risks to quicken her pulse. When Catherine
-- relocated to London for unexplained reasons -- drives her
sports car into the Thames late one night, she is implicated in
the death of a football star. Detective Superintendent Roy
Washburn (Thewlis) brings in noted criminal psychiatrist Glass
to perform an evaluation of her.

His analysis must have impressed Catherine because when she
is released by the court, she wants to engage him as her
shrink. In the film's first howling implausibility, he actually
takes her on as a patient despite the objections of his
colleague Dr. Milena Gardosh (the always wonderful Charlotte

Naturally, their sessions see tables turn: She provokes and
draws information out of him without revealing much of herself.
And, naturally, he is thoroughly smitten. You know this because
his colorless, grim visage grows even more colorless and grim.

While Washburn continues his quest to nail Catherine for
the first death, she insinuates herself into the lives of
seemingly everyone Glass knows -- his ex-wife (Indira Varma), a
journalist (Hugh Dancy) working a damaging story about Glass
and even Gardosh. Not everyone survives. In the movie's wildest
bit of nonsense, Catherine lets the good doctor tail her into
Soho's seedier streets, where she pays a pimp in a brothel to
have sex with her, fully aware that Glass is watching.

The architecture and interior designs are all trendy and
slick yet still feel like film noir as Goldsmith's musical
themes resurface within the contours of John Murphy's new
score. But the dynamics are off between Stone and Morrissey.
What could possibly intrigue Catherine about this anal
creature? That pimp or even the detective would be a better bet
if she's looking for the thrill of risks.

Morrissey gives a stiff, awkward performance, while Stone
moves dangerously close to overplaying the femme fatale. There
is little if any intrigue in the story or the characters. Even
the murders don't even seem to matter much. The only real
intrigue comes in the film's risky flirtation with high camp.


Catherine Tramell: Sharon Stone

Dr. Michael Glass: David Morrissey

Dr. Milena Gardosh: Charlotte Rampling

Roy Washburn: David Thewlis

Adam Tower: Hugh Dancy

Denise Glass: Indira Varma

Director: Michael Caton-Jones; Screenwriters: Leora Barish,
Henry Bean; Based on characters created by: Joe Eszterhas:
Producer: Mario F. Kassar, Andrew G. Vajna, Joel B. Michaels;
Executive producers: Moritz Borman, Matthias Deyle, Denise
O'Dell, Mark Albela; Director of photography: Gyula Pados;
Production designer: Norman Garwood; Music: John Murphy; Music
theme: Jerry Goldsmith; Costumes: Beatrix Aruna Pasztor;
Editors: John Scott, Istvan Kiraly.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter