Friday, April 14, 2006

BASIC INSTINCT 2 - My not-so-secret shame

So I found myself in the West End with a couple of hours to spare and I decided to check out BASIC INSTINCT 2. My motives were pretty miserable: curiousity and a sort of malevolent will to laugh at something bad. So, I slapped down my ten squid, armed myself with some happiness-inducing ice-cream and braced myself for the worst. Two hours later I left the theatre in a state of shock and shame - my entire worldview had been shaken - I had to admit to myself that I *really* enjoyed this movie. Which is, as far as I can tell, a minority view. When something like this happens you have to ask yourself: is the rest of the world completely wrong about BASIC INSTINCT 2 and/or was I smoking crack?

Well, as painful as it is, let's try and work out exactly why I think you too should go see BASIC INSTINCT 2 this weekend. BASIC INSTINCT 2 is an erotic thriller. And before you think that sounds sleazy, you have probably seen and enjoyed more erotic thrillers than you think: Fatal Attraction, Where The Truth Lies, Mulholland Drive, In The Cut....And this sequel is
far less erotic and far more a thriller than the original. (I am not saying that this is a good or a bad thing, just noting it for the record.) There is far less explicit sexual content, no obligatory lesbian sex-scene. Indeed, most of the time, sex is hinted at, off-screen, or we just see the sordid consequences of it. In many ways, then, BASIC INSTINCT 2 has taken its relocation to London seriously, and while the content hints at dark-doings, these are no worse than your average British political
sex-scandal. (And no, I am not *just* talking about the spoofing of the famous Christine Keeler photo.)

A big sales factor for me is that the movie is shot not just in generic London but in precisely the part of London in which I live. And London looks bloody brilliant: all hyper-modern blade-runner skyscrapers in Canary Wharf and the City contrasted with claustrophic Gothic trophy buildings. It captures everything that I love about this town - that you can walk through the medieval glory of the Tower of London and five minutes later amble by the Lloyds building. And Soho (which these days is rather a gentrified tourist trap) has never looked more like a page from an Alan Moore novel.

But anyways, on to the plot and performances. The plot is pretty similar to the original movie. Catherine Tramell (Sharon Stone) is a successful author of pulp fiction. Her novels involve sex, drugs, murder: "the basic instincts", and usually describe sleazy crimes that later just happen to occur. In the first five minutes of this movie she speeds off a road into the Thames while having sex with C-list British footballer, Stan Collymore, leaving him to die. This brings her to the attention of the local police, one of whom (David Thewlis) wants to bang her up (ho-ho) whether or not he has the evidence. Catherine is referred to the state's psychologist, Dr Michael Glass (David Morrissey). Glass diagnoses her as a "risk addict" whose own death will be the only final boundary to her reckless actions. He then takes Catherine on as a private patient. A tangled web of affairs and evil-doings unfold involving David's ex-wife, her lover - a tabloid journalist threatening to expose murky secrets in Dr Glass' past - and David's mentor, played by the ever-amazing Charlotte Rampling. As in the first Basic Instinct, as the murders pile up we ask whether Catherine really is a psychopath, or whether Dr Glass, or even the dirty cop, are committing them to save their respective assess.

So far, so good. The plot ticks all the right boxes. How about the execution? Like I said, director Michael Caton-Jones (who bizarrely has the diametrically opposite movie, SHOOTING DOGS in UK cinemas at the same time as this) creates the perfect backdrop in London. London shimmers and seduces in exactly the same way that Catherine should. And, to my mind, Sharon Stone really does pull it off - although I am a "gurl" so clearly am no judge compared to all those moronic guys on blogs posting that she is too old to play the part. Alls I know is that I cannot imagine anyone else acting this outrageously and looking completely authentic while they are doing it. I am less sure of David Thewlis as the dirty cop and David Townsend as Dr Glass. Thewlis goes for over-the-top hammy - presumably on the say-so of the director - and Townsend is little better than a foil. It would have been infinitely more satisfying had they cast a heavyweight actor - whether Yank or Brit. Someone like Clive Owen, I suspect, would have done better.

But finally, I think the film works on a basic level as a whodunnit. The two hours flew by as the bodies mounted up (hehehe) and the plot became more complex. Yes I know some of it is a bit silly, not least the Stan Collymore episode, but you have to admire any film-makers that understand that genre and revel in its possibilities. And I defy any audience not to enjoy the scene where Catherine immitates Christine Keeler, gets Dr Glass hot, and then announces, "I think our time is up, Doctor!" That was one of the many INTENDED laughs that this film got.

So there we are. I really liked this film. What's next? I develop a taste for Jennifer Aniston rom-coms?

BASIC INSTINCT 2: RISK ADDICTION is on global release.


  1. Hey, we all need a guilty pleasure, right?

  2. I know I know, but I already listen to Eminem....

  3. Catherine Tramell may be the real Slim Shady.

    Incidentally, what do you think of "Hard Candy"?

  4. You know, I ain't seen Basic Instinct and I more often than not disagree with your reviews, but you're probably my favorite movie reviewer. I'm also glad you confirmed in this post that you're female, because while that should not and does not substantially matter, it was driving me mad whenever I referred people to your blog. That is all.

  5. @anon Didn't see it yet: is it worth checking out?

    @Flint. You're not the only one - Carrie also uses me as a contra-indicator - if I love it, she'll hate it and vice versa! Hence my nervousness about you liking Slevin!