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Basic Instinct 2 (MGM Pictures, R)

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Either a complete victim of circumstance or the manipulative mastermind behind a series of grisly murders, Tramell ensnares the obsession of Dr. Michael Glass.

 

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In the ’80s and ’90s, Michael Douglas starred in a string of event movies, big releases that transcended the world of film, working their way in the collective unconscious of American culture. Starting with Fatal Attraction and Wall Street, and continuing with Falling Down, Disclosure, and, to a lesser extent, The American President, Douglas imprinted himself into culture with films that touched a nerve and left indelible images. These films usually had important, hot-button themes of the day and included a seminal moment that would be parodied, quoted, and referenced in popular culture for years. To this day, references to boiling a rabbit refers to obsession. “Greed is good” defines ’80s capitalism and is recycled at every Enron excess. Images of political witch-hunts, sexual harassment, and disenfranchised middle America are forever linked to Douglas. These films were not the best movies available at the time; they are not cinematic classics that students will dissect years down the road; they collect dust on video store shelves. But they are irrevocably part of the zeitgeist.

The biggest, most culturally shaping film Douglas made in this time period is 1992’s Basic Instinct. This is due to a single scene featuring the most private parts of rising starlet Sharon Stone. Whether they have seen the film or not, everyone can describe Stone’s wardrobe, demeanor, and actions. That flash of celluloid ingrained itself into American society like no other. It is still easily recognizable, even in farce. Unlike the rest of the Douglas vehicles of the time, it had no overriding social context, no cautionary tale, no socio-political debate—yet it lingers.

For a film containing one of the most recognizable moments in film history, it is difficult to find anyone who remembers the story. It had something to do with a writer who may or may not be a serial killer, and a cop who is alternately investigation and banging her, who might be the killer himself. It climaxes in a bizarre sex scene that only serves to convolute the plot further.

In Basic Instinct 2, Douglas is nowhere to be found, and Stone’s character, Catherine Tramell, is in London torturing a new country of men and women. Either a complete victim of circumstance or the manipulative mastermind behind a series of grisly murders, Tramell ensnares the obsession of Dr. Michael Glass (David Morrissey). Glass alternately analyzes and bangs Tramell, who may be protecting him or setting him up to take her fall.

The movie is actually an interesting idea for a murder mystery. The plot twists and multiple theories of the crime unfold as Dr. Glass delves deeper and deeper. Coincidences abound and everyone in Dr. Glass’ life is entangled in the web. Everyone has a motive and a secret. Everyone is at once a suspect and a potential victim. All of this is intriguing on paper, but it drags on, becoming both predictable and indecipherable on screen. The pieces for a good mystery romp are here but the have not been assembled correctly.

Part of the reason the pieces do not fit is the filmmakers relied on creating a frenzied, sexual mood piece, and while Stone can still bring it at almost 50—she understands on a molecular level the difference between beautiful and sexy—her vamping is just not enough to hold the film together. Without an unexpected, audacious, unprecedented moment, the only thing separating Basic Instinct 2 from the regular fare offered on late-night Cinemax is the soundtrack.

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