Whether thanks to nature or suture, main attraction Sharon Stone looks fine in “Basic Instinct 2”– it’s the movie that needs Viagra and a walker. Those hoping for either a sizzling — or an unintentionally hilarious — good time will be disappointed by this inexplicably dull sequel, which exchanges the San Francisco-set original’s robust vulgarity for a polite restraint that may be in line with its London locale, but is wholly at odds with public expectations. How much aud remains after 14 years? As with most excessively overdue follow-ups, quick theatrical in and out will likely be followed by serious money via ancillaries. Pic opened in France Wednesday, in advance of U.S. bow.
Ironically, the demographic that protested in 1992 might be among the few opening weekend loyalists this time around — lesbians and gays once incensed by the original “Basic Instinct’s” bi-sexploitation are now likely to queue up in anticipation of a stereotype-riddled, all-out campfest. “BE-2’s” faltering nerve and energy won’t turn that trick, however.
Ostensibly living in London to research another pulp novel, erstwhile ice-pick murderess Catherine Tramell (Stone) hurls her sports car around The Square Mile’s boulevards with a handsome if barely conscious star soccer player (ex-footballer Stan Collymore) in the passenger seat. She licks his finger, then guides it south of her personal equator.
Lost in the ensuing orgasm, Catherine plunges their vehicle off a bridge. After a cursory attempt to unlock the too-stoned-to-care b.f.’s seat-belt, Catherine swims to safety, looking unshaken.
Nor does she seem remotely remorseful as she smirks through a subsequent police interview with Scotland Yard homicide detective Roy Washburn (David Thewlis). Washburn not only found drug paraphernalia in the car, but discovered the soccer dude was dosed with a substance that paralyzed his lungs, killing him before he could drown.
Washburn’s friend Dr. Michael Glass (David Morrissey) is called in to provide a psychiatric evaluation of Catherine. Dropping double-entendres like grand pianos, she makes a definite impression on the doc. In court he brands her a manipulative, pathologically lying “risk addict” who might prove a harmful to herself and others if released. Unfortunately, she’s walking free moments later on a technicality.
Claiming Glass’ analysis “made me think,” Catherine becomes a five-day-a-week couch patient of the doctor — the first of numerous hard-to-swallow instances where the Michael Douglas-manque’s sound judgment and professional ethics get tossed aside far too easily.
Suspicions she’s simply toying with Glass are fast confirmed as she makes discomfiting inroads with every important person in his life: ex-wife (Indira Varma), her muckraking-journo lover (Hugh Dancy), close colleague (Charlotte Rampling) and esteemed mentor (Heathcote Williams).
Natch, some of these people start turning up dead, and the evidence incriminates Dr. Glass himself.
First reel is promisingly crass and lurid, if sometimes cringe-inducing in its blunt efforts at linguistic shock value. Stone sashays about as if waving an invisible feather boa, pausing for silent ka-boom-cha! after each line, forever scissoring legs in umpteen little-black-dresses. (Perversely, her hairdos and line-free visage at times suggest the soccer-mom winner of a Hilary Duff look-alike contest.) She’s fun like Mamie Van Doren was fun — subtlety need not apply.
But script credited to Leora Barish and Henry Bean then spends so much time following Morrissey around that Stone ends up a guest star in her own movie. A respectable if uninspired directorial choice, Michael Caton-Jones allows a little too much restraint here. While Paul Verhoeven gave the original a sleek pseudo-Hitchcockian surface, he also juiced the sleazier elements to keep viewers awake. The sluggish, talky narrative of Caton-Jones’ glossy sequel keeps even the lamentably limited sex and violence which does occur (not much seems left after purported wrangling with the MPAA) from raising viewers’ pulses.
The first film outraged and amused by providing the ultimate cinematic articulation of one illogical yet popular definition of “lesbianism”: As something hawt girls do just to frustrate and titillate men.
Beyond a couple eyebrow-waggling hints that she might deploy Sapphic voodoo on Rampling, Catherine is now a “For Men Only” zone. Even her ice-pick has been traded in for a fussier, duller leather choke-collar.
Given an unflattering haircut that makes him look unnecessarily middle-aged, and stuck having to pretend La Tramell is more sexually irresistible than she is camp gorgon, Morrissey maintains an admirable straight face. As do Thewlis and Rampling, though none of the thesps’ dignity (nor that of John Murphy’s hitherto nondescript score) hold up during a climactic scene as silly as it is talky and unimaginative.
Physical package is handsome enough, with an air of moneyed, primarily nocturnal luxury imparted in all design contribs as well as the well-chosen locations.