ZERO STARS/**** Image A Sound A- Extras B-
starring Sharon Stone, David Morrissey, Charlotte Rampling, David Thewlis
screenplay by Leora Barish & Henry Bean
directed by Michael Caton-Jones
by Walter Chaw Picture Chappaquiddick re-imagined as a Kylie Minogue video. Thus, auspiciously, begins Michael Caton-Jones's will-breaking Basic Instinct 2, a picture so magnificently awful that it demonstrates a special, indefinable kind of genius en route to being just another of the worst films in history. Schlock writer Catherine Tramell (Sharon Stone), who publishes under the nom de plume of "Woolf" (because she is one, get it?), is behind the wheel of a sporty little number as a drugged-up soccer hero fingers her snatch, climaxing at the moment she runs her racer through a glass crash barrier (?!) into an icy drink. (Perhaps the Thames--we're in Jolly Old England this time around.) Catherine then finds herself on the wrong side of the law again, ordered to undergo sessions with brilliant British shrink Michael Glass (David Morrissey, who has Liam Neeson's face down pat) on behalf of Scotland Yard's finest, Washburn (David Thewlis). Washburn calls Tramell a "cunt" and a "bitch" and accuses Glass at one point of being beguiled by the "smell of her pussy," which is the sort of elderly banter the knitting cotillion might still find shocking--though it's light years more appalling than Tramell's pleased reference to Masters & Johnson and her constant litany of "cum" [sic] declarations. "He was alive, he was making me cum," she says, and, "I think of you when I cum," and so on and so forth, marking her vampy, thumb-on-the-turntable performance as the most hideous bit of creaky past-prime tarting-about since Mae West was dropping the same dusty come-ons in support hose and pancake makeup. All that's missing are references to Kinsey and "bloomers."
Because it's the type of film that doesn't know how to grow its own life, Basic Instinct 2 dedicates much of its supporting cast to constantly affirming the brilliance and/or deviance of Tramell and Glass, when all evidence presented to our poor senses suggests exactly the opposite. Neither seems particularly bright or naughty, with Stone's baritone half-speed husking making her coquette turns as pathetic as her obnoxious minx. Morrissey, meanwhile, his face frozen in some nondescript neutral rictus, appears mainly stunned to be caught in something once subtitled "Risk Addiction." That's Glass's diagnosis of our lady Tramell (whose sole risky pastime after the opening stunt-driving is sucking on cigarettes lit by phallic British landmark lighters (like Big Ben, hardy har), causing both Freud and England to roll in their graves), and then the rest of Basic Instinct 2 plays out like a porn film without any taboo sex, just risqué outfits and some sedate nudity packed around sordid sets and godawful screenwriting and direction. Consider the scene post-coitus where a towel-bedecked Glass trundles hilariously down a long flight of stairs while Caton-Jones decides, for maybe the first time in the movie, to simply let the scene play out. Or the line Tramell offers up to the gods of non-sequitur miscomprehension: "Even Oedipus didn't see his mother coming"--or is that "cumming"? Either way, it doesn't make any kind of sense in or out of context.
Nor does the squandering of Charlotte Rampling (understanding that to squander the pursed Rampling is really a difficult accomplishment) as Glass's puckered mentor, or poor Flora Montgomery as one of Glass's humiliating compensatory fucks, done doggie before she's interrupted by a cell phone call from Glass's abused ex (Indira Varma), upon whom hangs the picture's interminable, ridiculous denouement. The unfortunate shadow of the first film falls on this one, too, as every time Catherine perches herself on a chair/table/bench, we find ourselves staring at her crotch in anticipation of some acknowledgment of what is still Stone's only real claim to fame. Well, besides that she was married to a guy bitten on the toe by a frigging Komodo dragon.
To be fair, it's really the only thing of interest to do after a while. Basic Instinct 2 is dreadful beyond description--you might be thinking that it's worth it in the same way that buying Farrah Fawcett's two late-'90s appearances in PLAYBOY (the first at Stone's current age of 48) was worth it, but you'd be wrong. You might also be thinking it's so bad that it's got to be funny, but you'd be wrong about that, too. Basic Instinct 2 is the kind of horror that lingers on a shot of a magazine article long enough for you to read that every paragraph begins with the same sentence--and that sentence is "a perfectly good movie script could be made from..." Which is deceptive, too, because no one involved in any way, shape, or form with this misbegotten death march would know a perfectly good movie script if it bit them on their perfectly-toned, middle-aged buttock. Originally published: March 31, 2006.
by Bill Chambers Sony issues Basic Instinct 2 on DVD in separate R-rated and Unrated Extended editions; we received the latter for review. The extra footage increases the film's sex quotient but not, alas, its erotic appeal, though the 2.43:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is mostly beyond reproach, save traces of edge-enhancement and some gummy shadow detail. I was comparatively disappointed in the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, but I have a feeling an uninspired mix is to blame, as the discrete channels deliver whenever push comes to shove (during the, ahem, throbbing passages of the score, or the bit of gunplay that constitutes the, ahem, climax). On another track, director Michael Caton-Jones talks and talks and talks but never really says anything. Early on, he makes the understatement of the year in observing, "This is not about ordinary people," then follows that up by offering that the characters' haute couture fashions steep Basic Instinct 2 in the tradition of the Hollywood melodramas of old, in which everyone's always dressed to the nines. That may be the case (although it also puts Basic Instinct 2 in the tradition of contemporary American sitcoms, doesn't it?), but suffering these complex rationalizations gets exhausting when "I tried to polish a turd" would've sufficed. His thick Scottish brogue ultimately solidifies the yakker's status as an endurance test.
Caton-Jones likewise contributes optional commentary to a selection of ten deleted scenes, the last of which is an alternate ending I had trouble telling apart from the real thing. The rest are filler, transitional stuff the by-now-winded auteur deemed superfluous, although the significant truncation of Glass's 'forensic evaluation' of Catherine explains itself. New Wave Entertainment's "Between the Sheets: A Look Inside Basic Instinct 2" (11 mins.) avoids with deafening silence the production's sordid history--only the opening car crash, in fact, is explored in any depth, with Stone telling a fairly pointless anecdote about getting her shoe stuck in the floor of the stunt vehicle. No one betrays a glimmer of affection for the first film except Stone, which is ironic considering she mispronounces the name of Michael Douglas's Nick Curran in Basic Instinct 2 proper. Trailers for Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Friends with Money, Silent Hill, Art School Confidential, Freedomland, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, Hollow Man 2, I'll Always Know What You Did Last Summer, Cirque de Soleil: Lovesick, "The Boondocks", Blue Velvet (not the theatrical trailer, but a preview of the Special Edition DVD), Wild at Heart, and Showgirls round out the disc, the first three cuing up automatically on startup. Originally published: June 19, 2006.