Basic Instinct 2
Director : Michael Caton-Jones
Screenplay : Leora Barish & Henry Bean
MPAA Rating : R
Year of Release : 2006
Stars : Sharon Stone (Catherine Tramell), David Morrissey (Dr. Michael Glass), Charlotte Rampling (Milena Gardosh), David Thewlis (Roy Washburn), Hugh Dancy (Adam Towers), Anne Caillon (Laney Ward), Iain Robertson (Peter Ristedes), Stan Collymore (Kevin Franks), Kata Dobó (Magda), Flora Montgomery (Michelle Broadwin), Jan Chappell (Angela)
In the 14 years following the release of Paul Verhoeven’s Basic Instinct, the notorious erotic thriller that made her a star, Sharon Stone has been trying to live down the character of cold-hearted seductress and possible ice-pick-wielding murderess Catherine Tramell. She’s done everything she can to convince us that she’s a legitimate actress: working with Martin Scorsese (which garnered her an Oscar nomination for her role in 1995’s Casino), starring in misfire indie films like Simpatico (1999), even cutting her hair short. Yet, somehow the image of her as Catherine, the steely-eyed temptress, was the one she could never shake.
So, what’s a woman to do but succumb to the demands of the popular imaginary and make a sequel? Thus we get Basic Instinct 2, a ridiculously belated follow-up that has been in various stages of production for years under any number of directors, depending on which rumor mill you follow.
Unfortunately, it is an underwhelming sequel, one that fails to make good on the steamy trashiness of the original, which at the time raised eyebrows and ire from conservatives and liberals alike (the former didn’t like its general depravity while the latter didn’t like its cartoonish depiction of lesbians as murderous psychos). Perhaps the passage of time and increasing flood of Internet pornography has dulled our senses, but Basic Instinct 2 feels like a pale shadow that is imminently unworthy of even a raised heartbeat.
A major part of the film’s problem is its casting, namely the decision to place British actor David Morrissey opposite Stone as Dr. David Glass, a psychoanalyst who gives Catherine a forensic psychological examination after a soccer star is killed when she drives her sports car off the road and into the Thames at 110 mph. Morrissey is a fine actor with a long and varied filmography, but he looks utterly wrong for the part. Dr. Glass is meant to be an upstanding, respectable intellectual whose inner darkness is fired by his interactions with Catherine, but Morrissey never makes us believe there’s a sordid core beneath his character’s impeccable suits.
With his soft cheeks, bland haircut, and small, pursed mouth, Morrissey’s Dr. Glass is no match for Stone’s hard-edged vixen. Part of the seedy jolt of the original Basic Instinct was the give-and-take between Catherine and Michael Douglas’s San Francisco cop; unlike Morrissey, Douglas was able to pull off a character who was just as twisted and dangerous as Catherine, which made him a worthy opponent. Dr. Glass never seems like anything more than a pawn. Even his deliriously expansive office inside a phallic glass skyscraper, which should equate him with masculine power, just makes him seem pathetic and out of his league.
The screenplay by Leora Barish and Henry Bean rehashes most of the major plot points of the original film, casting Catherine as an almost too-obvious murder suspect and allowing her to manipulate everyone around her, especially Dr. Glass, who ill-advisedly takes her on as a patient. He diagnoses her with “risk addiction,” a psychological malady from which he obviously suffers, as well, given his rapid obsession with her. Meanwhile, Dr. Glass is mired in other problems, namely a haunting earlier case in which he failed to alert authorities to the potentially murderous nature of one of his patients. Should he have done something to stop it? Will it happen again with Catherine? Does anyone care?
Director Michael Caton-Jones does what he can with the material, but it’s hard not to feel that Basic Instinct 2 is shocking only in the fact that it’s so boring. The film needed a director with a true trash vibe and wicked sense of irony--in short, someone like Paul Verhoeven, whose devil-may-care attitude and “shock the stuffy Americans” mentality are sorely missed. Basic Instinct 2, with its cloudy London setting, grayish cinematography, and roles played by well-regarded European thespians like Charlotte Rampling and David Thewlis, is too refined, polished, and simplistic, even as the body count rises. Stone delivers in her performance, taking Catherine’s lethal vixen to a whole new level of cartoonish malevolence, but it’s not enough to save this embarrassingly limp and utterly unnecessary sequel.
Copyright ©2006 James Kendrick
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All images copyright ©2006 Metro Goldwyn-Mayer