After all the hype about unbridled sexuality, ratings board confrontations and last-minute reshooting, "Sliver" proves all flash and no sizzle -- an uninspired thriller that simply changes gender on the "Basic Instinct" formula to "Did he or didn't he?" Curiosity should generate strong opening numbers, but once word-of-mouth spreads, pic could get lost amid fast-on-its-heels summer fare.
After all the hype about unbridled sexuality, ratings board confrontations and last-minute reshooting, “Sliver” proves all flash and no sizzle — an uninspired thriller that simply changes gender on the “Basic Instinct” formula to “Did he or didn’t he?” Curiosity should generate strong opening numbers, but once word-of-mouth spreads, pic could get lost amid fast-on-its-heels summer fare.Working from Ira Levin’s novel, writer Joe Eszterhas and director Phillip Noyce have crafted a cold, inaccessible yarn about murder and voyeurism that’s too leisurely about getting where it needs to go and doesn’t fully develop what should be its core: a just-divorced woman (Sharon Stone) being drawn into a kinky, voyeuristic relationship with a mysterious younger man (William Baldwin). Add to that a series of murders in their needle-shaped apartment building, and a neighbor who also covets the woman’s companionship, and you have the makings for the steamy romantic triangle/murder mystery “Sliver” intended to be. What you get, however, is considerably less, with the third side of the triangle never really filled in, and the voyeurism boiling down to little more than a high-tech homage to “Rear Window,” with the central character’s response to it all decidedly unclear. Carly (Stone), a book editor, moves into the new building and catches the eye of both Zeke (Baldwin), a computer whiz, and Jack (Tom Berenger), a burnt-out writer who comes on strong right away. Flattered by the attention, Carly is drawn to both but ends up doing the horizontal (and sometimes vertical) bop with Zeke, only to discover that he owns the place, has each unit wired with intrusive video cameras and that there’s been a series of murders in the building — including that of her apartment’s previous occupant, a woman to whom she bears a striking resemblance. Blame it on the editing and re-editing, but even the sex scenes aren’t all that steamy, and the movie suffers from some choppy moments and high-rise-size lapses in logic whose description, alas, would give away too much of the plot. (Suffice it to say that a reference to volcanoes, which reportedly tied in with one of the endings, makes sense only to those who’ve read the “making of” stories.) For Stone fans, the actress shows a lot less here, both literally and figuratively, than in her menacing and alluring turn in “Basic Instinct.” In fact, it’s simply a case of role reversal, with Stone this time as a repressed woman who has her sexuality awakened by a mysterious, possibly murderous stranger. While she’s equal to the task, she makes a far more compelling vamp and might be well advised to move on to a different genre. Zeke, meanwhile, emerges as a sort of sexual Batman. Eerie and wealthy, he oversees his building from a lofty perch, occasionally even swooping down to right the wrongs he witnesses. Baldwin brings the requisite creepy allure to the role, while Berenger proves the odd man out, sleepwalking through an underdeveloped character. Technically, the movie suffers from the reshoots and editing, and the murky video images never prove sufficiently titillating to convey the sense that Carly might be drawn into this shadowy world. Howard Shore provides a vibrant, memorable score, but when all’s said and done, that proves about the only facet of “Sliver” that gets under your skin.