Basic Instinct 2
2006Director: Michael Caton-Jones
Cast: Sharon Stone, David Morrissey, David Thewlis
he highest compliment that can be paid to Basic Instinct 2 is that it’s not entirely horrible. In fact, it’s lavished with an appealing electronic score, which helped, and proved suspenseful enough at points to evoke a certain amount of seriousness. But then it was supposed to be camp, right? They couldn’t have been serious when considering revisiting the 1992 thriller minus Michael Douglas and the original director, Paul Verhoeven. And it was similarly laughable that Sharon Stone pushed, and pushed hard, to have the project made, to the point of litigation no less. If the first Basic Instinct was the B-movie that could, a critical and commercial surprise, Basic Instinct 2 is the B-movie that shouldn’t have been, a commercial flop and certain deathblow to Sharon Stone’s career.
But to the point of camp we should return, since, if nothing else, this sequel seems a likely suspect. Camp, of course, is style that is deliberately vulgar, affected, and terribly artificial, without intending to do so. Like home movies or someone with perfect eyesight wearing horn-rimmed glasses. In her Notes on “Camp”, Susan Sontag remarked that “pure examples of camp are unintentional; they are dead serious.” To be sure, she went on to say that “Camp rests on innocence. That means Camp discloses innocence, but also, when it can, corrupts it.” Basic Instinct 2 cannot plead innocence, it knows better than that; it’s pure contrivance. So, instead of being campy and frivolous like, say, Catwoman, it’s implicated in that lumbering tedium that even self-consciously bad movies try to avoid.
To begin with, our vamped-up heroine, Catharine Tramell (Stone), has relocated to the UK, tits out, pants down. We find her behind the wheel of a beautiful sports car driving a group of intoxicated men through the city. As is her want, Tramell grabs the hand of one of her passengers and directs it to her crotch, a relaxing nightcap no doubt. Naturally, she picks up speed and starts tearing through city streets on her way into the Thames River. It should surprise us little that she only makes the slightest bit of effort to awake or alert her passengers as the vehicle fills up with water. Which leads us into the oh-so-infamous interrogation scene, or at least we expect it to.
The good cop is, as he should be, benign. The bad cop, however, is ridiculous. From his dour mug to his scene-stealing moustache, David Thewlis’s detective Roy Washburn is the arch ham, bristling “I want this cunt in jail” when Stone’s Tramell blithely recounts the prior night’s incident. But, alas, Washburn’s declaration isn’t literal, and unlike the first Basic Instinct, where Tramell has gone commando and is putting on a show, Tramell’s legs remain out of view. For shame.
But is middlebrow novelist Catherine Tramell (whose fiction closely hews to real life murders) guilty? Of course. But the Crown’s psychologist, Dr. Glass (David Morrissey), still has to assess her mental suitability for bail to be granted. She has what is clinically termed as risk addiction, a continual need to prove her own existence and omnipotence by engaging in risky behavior. Somehow… she gets off on a technicality, those murders in San Francisco 14 years earlier not proving motive enough, and seeks out Dr. Glass as her personal therapist.
Morrissey is a poor man’s Liam Neeson, with a square jaw and a brooding self-possession. Were this any other movie, we’d have taken him seriously, or at least wanted to. So, as Dr. Glass, Morrissey is as camp as this movie gets, counseling the bawdy mouthed Tramell while making a travesty of his professional ethics. And because he’s the only thing that’s genuinely camp in this movie, his innocence is corrupted tremendously, as his ex-wife, friends, and colleagues seem to turn on him. Isolated, Dr. Glass seems a far more interesting and complex character; but when the burden is pushed too heavily on him, an already underwhelming movie becomes tedious effrontery at Morrissey’s expense.
And as if that weren’t bad enough, the first sex scene shows up half way into the movie, and winds up being interrupted, perplexing as that is. The other two sex scenes were so inconsequential as to be unnecessary. This movie should not, repeat, not fail in the raunch factor. This is all it stands on and should, therefore, ratchet-up. Astonishingly, it doesn’t deliver. In the end, Stone’s Catherine Tramell is inoffensive and hardly registers, the risible yet blustering paper tiger. A Tom Berenger future is but a certainty for Stone, and since Tramell’s wiles see her through the end of Basic Instinct 2 untouched, count on her relocating to another country, likely somewhere in the East, to ply her preposterously desperate craft on some straight to video project.
Basic Instinct 2 is now available on DVD.
By: Ron Mashate
Published on: 2006-07-13