After months of hearing nothing but negative things about Basic Instinct 2, I had prepared myself for a career ending mess; a film that would plunge into the depths of badness where few films had gone before. I anticipated a cocktail of cinematic misfires; a dash of Gigli’s smug irreverence; a sprinkle of Showgirls’ ineptitude; a healthy serving of Bonfire of the Vanities’ sense of self-importance. Imagine my surprise, however, when Basic Instinct 2 turned out to be something not nearly as bad as many critics and moviegoers had led me to believe. As a matter of fact, it’s actually…well…kinda good.
The film opens with a bang (literally), as Catherine Tramell (Stone) and her latest boy-toy are whipping about the streets of London, hopped up on goofballs, and having an intimate moment at 100mph. Just as Catherine’s…err…engine overheats, she drives her vehicle through a billboard, and into the Thames. While Catherine manages to escape the sinking wreckage, her zonked-out date (who also happens to be a famous footballer) is not so lucky, and Catherine is, once again, a murder suspect. Detective Washburn (Thewliss) wants to put Catherine behind bars, and enlists the aide of young psychiatrist, Michael Glass (Morrissey), hoping that the doctor’s portrayal of Catherine as a hopeless risk junkie will prove her enough of a danger to herself (and others) that the courts will keep her off the streets. Catherine, of course, is cleared of all charges, but seeks out Glass, claiming that his assessment of her in court hit a nerve, and that she feels he can help her if he takes her on as a patient. Glass reluctantly agrees, and, as one would expect, his life suddenly becomes very complicated indeed.
I don’t see how anyone who enjoyed the first film could hate this sequel as they are essentially the same animal. Basic 2 employs the same sort of sleazy noir tactics as the original, with lots of teasing, flashes of steamy sex, and the sort of murder mystery that plays out like one of those sitcoms in which the characters bury themselves under a pile of misunderstandings. At times it’s enough to make you want to shout at the film and beg Dr. Glass to simply tell someone – anyone – what’s going on so that he won’t be caught up in Catherine’s manipulative game. It’s all quite stupid, really, as it would merely take a few phone calls to a good lawyer, a decent forensics person, and one of the investigators from the last film to clear this whole mess up, and send Catherine sneering off to the electric chair, but no one in Basic Instinct 2 is that smart, and that’s just fine, because, if they were, we wouldn’t have nearly as much fun watching them self-destruct.
Stone, who is pushing 50, looks better here than she ever has, and is obviously having a blast getting back in touch with her inner-sex kitten. It’s a campy, vampy performance, and, while it probably won’t win her any awards, it will certainly remind many of her male fans just why it was they fell in love with her in the first place.
The supporting cast classes things up quite nicely, with Morrissey, Thewlis, and Charlotte Rampling all turning in solid performances against director Michael Caton-Jones’ steamy London backdrop, making this all look and feel like much more than some sort of quickie cash-in on the original film. I think, however, that this was how the film was marketed, with a somewhat salacious internet trailer showing lots of skin and sex (more than what’s actually in the film, I should add) heralding Basic 2 as little more than a late-night softcore porn vehicle. It’s not a great film by any means, but it is certainly better than the likes of Bikini Car Wash, and deserved better.
Sony offers up a DVD chockfull o’ special goodies, including a satisfying making-of featurette, a whole bunch of deleted scenes (with optional commentary), and a feature-length commentary with Caton-Jones.