It begins with a murder. A silver Spider is cruising down the empty streets of London late at night. The passenger is a man unable to say or do much. The driver is a woman in complete control. She’s horny. He’s not in any condition to resist.
While in the middle of a rather unconvincing fingerbang, the car runs out of road and dives headfirst into a nearby river. Only one person survives. Guess which one.
This is how Basic Instinct 2 opens and it’s all downhill from there, literally.
Once again, Sharon Stone plays Catherine Tramell, the ice cold blonde seductress who writes best-selling novels about the murders she commits. How she continues to get away with these crimes despite the overwhelming evidence against her remains both ridiculous and insulting. She’s not as clever as she thinks she is.
The only suspect in the murder of her soccer player boyfriend, she’s taken into custody by the police and agrees to be evaluated by the prosecution’s shrink (played by David Morrissey who looks and sounds uncannily like Liam Neeson) without the presence of her attorney. She plays him like a fiddle, laying the groundwork for a plot that is as confused as it is stupid.
Morrissey wrongly assesses her in court as a risk addict with a unhealthy, delusional sense of omnipotence. Basically, he believes that her extreme sexual and violent behaviour is her way of constantly proving her invincibility. If you ask me, she’s a manipulative hack with a poor imagination who pushes herself to do "interesting" things in her real life so she’ll have something to sell to gullable readers. Note the quotation marks. She’s actually quite boring and she has a lot to learn about being sexy, as well.
Like the first movie, one of the worst of the 1990s, Tramell lays on her deep-voiced come-ons so thick and so often that the shrink, like Michael Douglas’ San Francisco cop, ultimately cannot resist her. It’s hard to believe considering how unsexy Stone is in this movie. She looks like a 50-year-old pretending to be 30, something the movie never has the balls to acknowledge. It just doesn’t work. And when did she get that boob job? I’d sue, if I was her.
Despite initially refusing to take her on as a client, the shrink breaks with his profession’s ethical guidelines rather easily and grows increasingly obsessive with her in the movie’s first hour. In an unusual twist, he has casual encounters with a couple of younger women (one, a colleague, the other, a waitress at a local restaurant) where he transfers his lust for Tramell, who is much older, onto each of them. When has that ever happened before? At one point, he actually stares at a book jacket shot of her while in the middle of doing it with a much lovelier blonde druggist.
Meanwhile, more people are murdered. A reporter working on a story involving a notorious, former client of the shrink which could kill the increasingly desperate man’s chances for a major promotion. The shrink’s ex-wife who was having a fling with the reporter. Suddenly, Tramell isn’t the only one arousing suspicion. Besides the dimwitted shrink, a cop (David Thewlis) who may or may not have a shady past of his own and is determined to nab the author, is also on the short list.
All of this leading to a finale that will leave you scratching your head in complete bewilderment. Unlike Basic Instinct, which gave away its supposed mystery in the first scene and didn’t deny it in the last, number two completely undermines what you think happened in a most unpersuasive manner. We know who killed the British footballer. That’s never in dispute. But as for the other deaths, I’m not sure who the real murderer is, despite what is revealed in the final act. One thing I am sure of: I don’t care.
Basic Instinct 2 is slow-moving, deadly dull, preposterous, silly and remarkably unscintillating. It knows little about turn-ons and erotic gestures. It knows even less about plot construction and interesting characters, although, to be fair, Thewlis, Morrissey and Charlotte Rampling (who plays a fellow shrink) do the best they can with a terrible screenplay. This film, believe it or not, is only slightly better than the original. (The first movie annoyed me just that bit more because after seeing its fantastic trailer I felt more betrayed by its manipulative storyline.)
I couldn’t help but think about The Last Seduction while watching this rightfully drubbed disaster. It has a far more appealing anti-hero and tells a far better story. It’s what this movie and its predecessor wanted to be but couldn’t.
What’s most hard to swallow is that this overlong mess was directed by Michael Caton-Jones, the same man who helmed Memphis Belle, Doc Hollywood, and This Boy’s Life, all good films worth catching on DVD. Seeing the beautiful Julie Warner naked and wet in that middle feature is sexier than both Basic Instinct films combined.
One last thing. Not that it matters but what happened to Michael Douglas’ character? He’s mentioned in passing a couple of times and the shrink reads the book that Tramell wrote about him ("Shooter"). Did he get killed off? Did he dump Tramell? Did she dump him? And when and why did she move to London? The movie is too disinterested to care.
Come to think of it, me too.
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, September 30, 2008