Basic Instinct 2 (2006) / Thriller-Mystery

MPAA Rated: R for strong sexual content, strong language, nudity, drug content, and violence
Running Time: 114 min.

Cast: Sharon Stone, David Morrisey, Charlotte Rampling, David Thewlis, Hugh Dancy, Anne Caillon
Director: Michael Caton-Jones
Screenplay: Leora Barish, Henry Bean
Review published April 7, 2006

Sharon Stone (Broken Flowers, Catwoman) returns to the role that made her a star, playing Catherine Tramell in this belated sequel to the popular 1992 film, Basic Instinct.  At this point in time, both for Stone's career as well as the Basic Instinct series, it's all too little, too late, as the potential audience that wants to see a continuation, or at the very least, to see the now 48-year-old Stone nude, has all but completely evaporated.  After a cavalcade of directors and co-stars attached to the project, it has finally been made, but after fourteen years of knock-offs and semi-remakes at the hands of many others, Basic Instinct 2 feels more like late-night Cinemax filler than it does a top-of-the-line thriller.

Basic Instinct, the first film, wasn't exactly a cinematic treasure.  Actually, it is very much in the trash category, although in its defense, it was great trash.  With a script by Joe Eszterhas and direction by camp satire maestro extraordinaire, Paul Verhoeven, the tongues were planted firmly in cheek, as the Hitchcock-laced visuals married tawdry story elements in a pleasing and engaging way.

Where Basic Instinct 2 fails is in its very earnest delivery.  Of the entire ensemble, only Sharon Stone seems in tune with the nature of the first film, delivering an over-the-top, balls-out performance that few big-name actresses would ever be associated with.  Eszterhas's campy screenwriting is gone, and in its place is an equally explicit, but very dry pulp erotic mystery by Leora Barish (Desperately Seeking Susan, Venus Rising) and Henry Bean (Deep Cover, Internal Affairs) that seems to make the fatal mistake of taking its characters and plot a little more seriously than it should.  Actually, most of the dialogue is campy and explicit, like the first film, but the sense of daring and style are gone, further compounded by a rather unremarkable presentation from director Michael Caton-Jones (City by the Sea, The Jackal).

The only selling points left are the sex and nudity, and for those interested solely in this project for that reason, rest assured, there is plenty.  However, for the seasoned erotic thriller junkie, these scenes are very routine, offering up nothing sensational, daring, or even mildly interesting to separate it from the myriad of other sex mysteries you find collecting dust on your video store shelves.  It's not that the first Basic Instinct was truly groundbreaking, but for a mainstream release, it was very ambitious, with a female lead so audacious, she treaded the fine line between alluring and repulsive in a very calculated and effective way. 

Another big problem is the lack of a formidable male lead.  Michael Douglas provided just the right amount of energy and machismo to at least give the appearance that he wasn't a man that was easily trifled with, representing men and male interests well enough to understand that even the most self-centered and virile of men could be seduced by a woman sexy and conniving enough to know which strings to pull and when.  David Morrissey (Derailed, Hilary and Jackie), who plays the shrink assigned to study Catherine Tramell, is more of a placeholder than anything else, exuding the handsome looks and demeanor of a man that won't easily succumb to his baser instincts, but very little personality or identifiable conflict to truly find something there to relate to.  This one is dominated by the Tramell character so completely, the balance is out of sorts, with the advantage decidedly lopsided in her favor in every meaningful way.

Basic Instinct 2 was an idea DOA from inception.  It is a needless revisiting of shallow characters and vapid storytelling, meant strictly to titillate audiences looking for a little shock value and steamy sex in their contemporary thrillers.  After the first film was released, there were no end to these sorts of movies around, full of all manner of kinky sex and gratuitous nudity, so by waiting 14 years to deliver the follow-up, the producers have come to the party after everyone else has had their fix and left.  One could just as easily call this Basic Instinct 992 rather than Basic Instinct 2, although, come to think of it, in many ways, this has as much right to be called "number two" as any of the imitators.

Qwipster's rating:

2006 Vince Leo