Under no circumstance was "Basic Instinct 2" -- released 14 years after the first movie without the original male lead, director or writer -- ever going to be a good movie. The unnecessary sequel's only real chance at success was to go full-on camp, producing a film as intentionally tawdry, exploitative and trashy as possible. But who could have thought that the best approach to the material was to actually take it seriously? Yes. "Basic Instinct 2" couldn't have been good, but it could have at least been fun.
Things do start off promisingly. Catherine Tramell (Sharon Stone) is driving through London in a sporty car, zipping around at dangerous speeds with her obviously hammered soccer star boyfriend. She thrusts his hand between her legs and just as she orgasms, she drives the car off a bridge. She survives. He does not. That makes her subject to an intense police investigation ("I'm traumatized," she says. "Who knows if I'll ever cum again.") Brilliant!
Unfortunately, director Michael Caton-Jones ("Doc Hollywood") and writers Leora Barish ("Desperately Seeking Susan") and Henry Bean ("Internal Affairs") view the situation as a chance for a meaningful discussion of a psychological condition they keep referring to as "risk addiction." Repressed British shrink Michael Glass (David Morrissey) is convinced that Catherine's activities and choices are based on an adrenaline dependency, a need for danger that will only get worse (like the movie). Because he's too lazy to rent the first "Basic Instinct" and because he's too stupid to Google his new patient, Glass is really surprised when Catherine starts flirting with him, when the bodies begin piling up and when she announces that he's going to be the fictionalized subject of her new book. Viewers won't be quite as shocked, though, because "Basic Instinct 2" devolves into nearly a scene-by-scene remake of the original movie.
Because the discussion of "Basic Instinct 2" must inevitably devolve into talk about the sex scenes, it's important to first note how few exist and how awkward and uninspired they look. After the initial car crash, it's nearly 40 minutes before any boots are knocked and another 20 minutes between the first hint of Stone's naked body. To her credit, Stone looks fantastic, even if her exposure appears to be accompanied by some very careful lighting and some obvious pancake makeup. Caton-Jones has no interest in making the sex erotic -- chocking is the new ice picking, it seems -- and just rushes through the trysts as if they're just encumbrances for viewers who really, really, really want to hear the Psych 101-level discussion of Lacan and Jung.
Earlier this year, Sony leaked the international trailer for the film, a raunchy three-minute tease that literally contains more sex than the final film.
Beyond her willingness to disrobe, Stone is more than a good sport. Retreating to her level of "Diabolique" self-parody, she says every line of come-hither dialogue with a similar sneer and eye-roll, as if begging the film around her to go similarly over-the-top. The only other actor in on the game is David Thewlis, delivering incredulous line readings as a vaguely crooked cop. The tone of the movie is more dictated by Morrissey's perpetually glum Glass. So superior on countless British television projects, Morrissey won't be using "Basic Instinct 2" on his talent reel unless he wants to get nostalgic about the brief period he was toned enough to strip for a studio film.
Cinematographer Gyula Pados is trapped in the visual notion that London can only be depicted as a cold and sterile city, which only adds to the sense that everybody involved with "Basic Instinct 2" was being much too respectful of the property. Although "Basic Instinct" was a slick and proficient thriller, it was mostly a guilty pleasure. It'll take more than kinky doings with a belt to get pleasure out of this one.