[30 March 2006]
PopMatters Film and TV Editor
You never thought you’d miss Joe Eszterhas. But this long un-awaited sequel appears so desperate and idea-less that his 1992 script is almost gripping by comparison. The clumsily titled Basic Instinct 2: Risk Addiction brings back the original’s primary pleasures: campy sexual excess, twisty murder plot, Jerry Goldsmith’s sinuous theme music, and of course, Sharon Stone as brilliant American novelist and (maybe) psychokiller Catherine Trammel. But while the music is repetitive and Stone is fabulous, the new movie pretty much misses on every other count.
Once again, Catherine seduces a man who thinks he’s smarter than she is. And once again, she’s smarter than anyone else in the film. She has relocated from San Francisco to London, and first appears in mid-rip. More specifically, she’s speeding along in her Ferrari Spider, hair blowing while her date for the night—some superstar footballer (Stan Collymore)—complains of not being able to move. “You don’t have to,” she purrs, “You’re in a car.” While you ponder the logic of her assessment, Catherine shows just how much he doesn’t need to move, as she proceeds to masturbate herself with his finger while moaning and screeching and driving that fancy vehicle into the Thames.
The several shots of Catherine gazing on the player as she makes her way to the water’s the surface are the last striking images in the film, which also misses Paul Verhoeven and DP Jan de Bont ‘s glossy visuals. From here one, she appears in scrupulously arranged compositions, all environments indicating her icy coldness and impenetrability. One of these is the police station, where she’s questioned by Detective Washburn (David Thewlis). “Did you try to help him get free?” he asks. He camera remains fixed on her perfect face, framed by perfect damp hair, “My life was more important to me than his… I’m traumatized. Who knows if I’ll ever come again.” Annoyed by her performance (no leg-crossing here), Washburn grumps, “I want that cunt in jail!” You see where this is likely headed.
But no. Instead of pitting Catherine against another cop (and the formidable Thewlis), the film introduces a different adversary-lover, court-appointed Dr. Michael Glass (David Morrissey). Following their not-so-witty exchange (in an interrogation room that resembles a penthouse foyer), this “crown shrink,” as Catherine calls him, appears in court to assert that he believes she’s capable of murder because she is… “risk addicted.” The camera closes on Catherine in courtroom: she and this doctor fellow have got a… what do you call it?... date with destiny.
Catherine believes she has Glass’ number: she notes right off that he “looks a little divorced,” and he does indeed resent the current dalliances of his ex, Denise (Indira Varma) with a British-bloidy magazine writer, the odiously named Adam Towers (Hugh Dancy). Glass’ office is in a sleek building that resembles a giant dildo, his mentor, Milena (Charlotte Rampling), is, well, she’s Charlotte Rampling. She’s also saddled with the film’s silliest non sequitur: informed that Catherine just “walked out” of a session, she observes, “How Lacanian.” Er, okay.
Glass makes noises about trust and shrink protocol, setting himself up for Catherine’s scheme-because-she-can: she approaches Glass for further therapy (because his declaration of her “risk addiction” made her “realize I was scared”), she leans in to show cleavage, leans over his desk to sign something, and otherwise shows off the fact that she’s wearing a skimpy evening-looking dress in daytime and oh yes, that her 48-year-old body is stunning. “No smoking,” he says when she lights up, “It’s a rule.” Her new catch-phrase-in-waiting: “I don’t like rules.”
You know that Glass knows he’s supposed to say no to therapy with Catherine, but he says yes. The rest of the movie approximates the who’s-playing-whom dynamic of the first film, but without the aptly creepy Michael Douglas or the straight-up wonderful George Dzundza. (Catherine’s quoting from her book, Shooter, that rewrote the first film at its own end, seems a ploy of the desperate variety.) When the terminally bland Glass learns he’s only one object of Catherine’s research for her new novel about a psychoanalyst (she also beds an older fellow with daunting hair), he refuses to sleep with Catherine based on some rule, leading her to declare him the poster boy for “the nightmare of shrinkdom, too many questions… nobody gets laid.”
But of course, this is Basic Instinct2, which means that a lot of people get laid (though it oddly omits the girl-girl action that propelled the first film into some profitable controversy), and some of them dead to boot. As if to rebut Catherine’s charge, Glass beds a colleague (Flora Montgomery) and treat her roughly while gazing on a dust-jacket photo of Catherine on his nightstand. (There’s probably some mirror-stagey stuff going on here, but the movie doesn’t pause for it.) Glass’ seeming descent into rage and obsession follows the expected route: he frets about a promotion, observes bloody crime scenes, surveils Catherine as she has some not-so-random sex. He also shares theories with Washburn: “How do you know she’s lying?” asks Glass; “Because everything that comes out of her fucking mouth is a lie!” barks Washburn.
As in the first film, this premise—that Catherine’s plot is a series of lies—is mildly interesting (and as before, her explanation of events in her novel is cleverer than anything that comes before.) But Basic Instinct 2, however lurid and faux sensational it seems, essentially stalls out after that first big-action murder scene. While Catherine’s guilt regarding specific cases might remain unknown, it also doesn’t much matter. She’s the Freddy Krueger of this two-film franchise, which means victims become negligible and motive immaterial. The fact that a middle-aged woman serves this function, and that the money shot is not some hideous-prosthetic-face reveal but a look at Stone’s flawless breasts in a Jacuzzi, makes a tired point: in 2006, women still scare men.
Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/basic_instinct_2/