After a few false starts, a law suit, and the attachment then exodus of a couple of 'name' directors (like David Cronenberg and Paul Verhoeven), Michael Caton-Jones, the man behind Doc Hollywood and Rob Roy finally got Sharon Stone's return to slutty form up there on the big screen where it stayed for about a week. Basic Instinct 2 was a flop, it got more bad reviews than you can shake a stick at and it hardly set the box office on fire.
After the events in the first Basic Instinct, female crime writer and psycho-sexual killing machine Catherine Tramell (Sharon Stone) has relocated to London, England. When we catch up with her, she and a stoned soccer player are coming back from a party and as they're doing a hundred miles an hour down the street, she decides to have him finger her to a climax. As she gets there, they drive off the road and into the river, he drowns, she makes it out, and finds herself under arrest courtesy of Detective Washburn (David Thewlis).
The court orders her to have a psychiatric evaluation where a shrink named Dr. Michael Glass (David Morrissey) states that she isn't insane but that she is addicted to taking risks. She's released back into the general population, much to Washburn's dismay, but decides that she wants to see more of Dr. Glass and so she coerces him into taking her on as a patient while sleeping with his ex-wife's current boy-toy who, of course, soon winds up a corpse. She shows up at some of the same parties as Glass, who thinks of her when he was rough sex with a waitress (Flora Montgomery) that he picks up one night, and after her head games don't land him in her bed she tells him that she's discontinuing his services, knowing that that'll be enough to spur him on. Is Tramell on a killing spree, pulling the old black widow routine by slicing and dicing whoever should fall into bed with her? Will Dr. Glass be her next victim or is this all an elaborate set up?
Basic Instinct 2 is a completely vacant piece of crap. It goes nowhere, it's void of any distinct style (it looks like every other sexy thriller to come out in the last decade or two), it's not very well acted, it's poorly paced, it's too long, and Sharon Stone's hair look bad. Seriously.
The original Basic Instinct was far from the greatest movie ever made but it was well shot, it had great cinematography, nice atmospheric lighting, and some very cool shots that captured Stone's features quite well. Here the film looks generic, in that there's nothing that stands out about the look of the movie and it fails to really capitalize on Stone's still enchanting looks. There is one scene where she's laying on the couch in Glass' office and the camera shows off her legs that is rather sultry but aside from that, even the gratuitous nudity is, quite frankly, uninspired. The one thing that the camera work does do well, however, is to ensure that we're always staring at Stone's crotch in hopes of a revelation. This happens a lot, to the point where it becomes humorous as we wait for the obligatory beaver shot to occur. Telling you whether or not it does in this review, however, would ruin pretty much the only genuine suspense in the film.
Speaking of Stone, while yes, she does look fantastic and far younger than her years, her performance here comes close to being a self parody. If you were to make a drinking game out of the movie and do a shot every time she said 'fuck' or 'cum' you'd be sloshed by twenty minutes in. To make matters worse, her hair looks truly strange here. Though it might sound like a superficial detail (and it is, but this is a superficial movie so it should be mentioned), if we're to believe she's the sex pot that the film tells us she is than we should want her too, and the unflattering framing that her coif does to her face actually manages to hurt the film more than should be possible. Put her living, breathing cliché beside Michael Glass, who looks like Liam Neeson only without his charisma and who has all the enthusiasm of dry rot and you're left with a movie where the two lead performers can't carry the material well enough to be convincing. Charlotte Rampling isn't bad as Glass' co-worker, but she's wasted in a part that doesn't give her much of anything interesting to do except act suspicious.
At roughly two hours in length, this one goes on too long. Sure, the added sex reinstated into this director's cut may appeal to the raincoat crowd but when it lacks passion or intensity and seems to only exist not to further the plot but to pad the running time, it's hard to be interested even if instinct says we should be.
As horrible as the film is, however, it does have that train wreck quality to it that makes it watchable. Much like you can't not look when you pass a burning car on the side of the highway in hopes of catching a glimpse of a body or two, the same morbid curiosity inherent in all of us makes Basic Instinct 2 watchable. It's painful at times but the film is so completely bad that it is marginally entertaining even if it is for all the wrong reasons.
The 2.43.1 anamorphic widescreen presentation of Basic Instinct 2 looks excellent on this DVD. The color reproduction is dead on, the black levels stay deep but don't bury any of the fine detail and there aren't any problems with mpeg compression artifacts to report on. Some edge enhancement and aliasing shows up in a couple of scenes but otherwise there's little to complain about here. Skin tones look lifelike and natural and there's a very pleasing level of both foreground and background detail present throughout the image. There's no print damage or heavy grain to complain about, and for the most part, this transfer is very strong.
The English language Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound mix isn't bad, but it isn't as aggressive or as exciting as you might think. Dialogue is clean and clear and the levels are well balanced but the surround channels don't get that much of a work out save for a few key scenes like the opening car crash or the finale. A few of the sex scenes get pumping nicely with the background music swelling up around you but the majority of the time the action is coming at you out of the front channels. Either way, it sounds good, it's just that the mix isn't as involving as maybe it should have been. An alternate language French dub is included as are English and French subtitles and an English closed captioning option.
First up in terms of supplements is a director's commentary with Michael Caton-Jones where we get to hear the director talk about how great the movie is and how well it turned out. It's a fairly superficial track though he does make some interesting observations about aspects of the movie that you might not pick up on during play back and he does tell some amusing stories about some of the case and crew members as this track plays out. Don't go into this one expecting much and you'll be alright, as he seems like a nice enough guy even if his take on the film is potentially insane.
From there we're treated to an eleven minutes featurette entitled Between The Sheets – Basic Instinct 2. While this is meant to be a 'making of' piece it doesn't cover much aside from the car crash scene that starts the film off. Stone shows up and talks about her work on the film as well as its predecessor, and it feels very much like a promotional piece rather than an actual documentary (the fact that they don't even touch on the production problems that the film was labored with for a few years adds to this).
Caton-Jones also provides optional commentary over a selection of ten deleted scenes, none of which add much of anything to the film save for the alternate ending which is fairly different from the one used in the film itself. While it's usually interesting to check out this type of material and hear why it was removed from the final cut of the film, it becomes obvious early on that most of this was there to pad out the running time and that it was excised to trim the film and better the pacing.
Rounding out the supplements are some animated menus, chapter stops, and trailers for other Sony/MGM DVD and theatrical releases.
Parts of Basic Instinct 2 work well as a trashy B-movie but the reality is that the movie is as bad as everyone would have you believe. It's a completely predictable, by the numbers cash in on the success and notoriety of the first film with increased doses of sex and violence. Entertaining, sure, in a base way, and Stone still has it going on, but it's hard to give this one any more than a 'rent it' recommendation (especially with the pricey MSRP) as it's just really poorly done despite offering some cheap thrills.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.