Basic Instinct (1992)

Basic Instinct (1992)

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That scene everyone knows. Imagine Wayne Knight getting sweaty on the reverse angle.
That scene everyone knows. Imagine Wayne Knight getting sweaty on the reverse angle.

Twitter Plot Summary: A cop with addiction problems finds himself addicted to the predatory nature of an attractive suspect in his latest case.

You can’t help but appreciate the cinematic efforts of Paul Verhoeven. Unless you have concerns about his very European sensibilities towards sex and violence – namely, that neither is anything he worries about too much. He has his own particular cinematic shorthand that appeals to a particular audience, one who appreciate the often ridiculous yet entertaining stories he is known for. One would never claim his films were subtle, and perhaps this is why they are appreciated in the way they are.

Basic Instinct was Verhoeven’s 1992 release following the Mars-based Schwarzenegger vehicle that was Total Recall. In many respects it’s a companion piece, albeit one established in a separate and distinct genre altogether. But stick with the comparison for a moment. Both feature extreme violence, nudity and similar themes of empowerment and lack of control. That and they both feature Sharon Stone. We’ll ignore the plots for both films because that would be a comparison too far, but on a thematic level they are brethren.

But then at the same time while on the surface it appears to be a weighty, thematic piece, it also proves to be nothing more than a vacuous thriller, its wafer thin story hidden by Paul Verhoeven’s direction, production values and lots of sexy time. If nothing else, most people know of the film thanks to that one particular interrogation scene where Sharon Stone uncrosses and crosses her legs. While stories about its origin vary (Verhoeven says Stone knew he was going to shoot it, she has said otherwise), it does work in support of the character’s manipulative tendencies. Even here, surrounded by police officers and there on suspicion of murder, she practically has them eating out of her… hand.

Spot the odd (old) man out. Go on, I'll give you three guesses.
Spot the odd (old) man out. Go on, I’ll give you three guesses.

Other than the nudity (if that’s your sort of thing), the performances from Michael Douglas and Sharon Stone are your reason for tuning in. Douglas is Nick Curran, a cop with an addictive personality. He’s recently given up alcohol, smoking and drugs, but his encounter with femme fatale and ultimate manipulator Catherine Tramell, played by Sharon Stone, sends him off the deep end. She becomes a point of obsession, leading him away from his recovery and those who are supporting him – namely his therapist and lover Dr Beth Garner (Jeanne Tripplehorn) and his police partner Gus (George Dzundza).

It’s not the best for portraying homosexual or bisexual relationships as the focus is almost solely on Douglas and Stone, but there is some tension provided by her girlfriend Roxy (Leilani Sarelle), even if that isn’t as developed a plot line as it needed to be. We also get a slightly cringeworthy scene of Michael Douglas hanging around in a nightclub, despite clearly being completely out of place in that particular setting. Best to move on from that sequence as quickly as possible.

And that leads nicely into the final reveal as to who the killer really is. Surprisingly, given that everyone these days seems to know the outcome even if they haven’t seen the film, back in the day it was still an unknown factor. But then if you really think about it, there’s no way it could have been anyone else. To suggest otherwise would require a rather unnecessary twist, and it’s not as if the film really goes out of its way to suggest that this is not the case. Just go with it, and if you don’t like it, there’s always Total Recall.

Score: 3/5

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