Basic Instinct 2 is indeed a guilty pleasure. Absolutely trashed by the critics upon its cinematic release a few months ago, the film disappeared pretty quickly, but it's a lot more fun than you might expect, and Sharon Stone as the Machiavellian best-selling crime novelist Catherine Tramell really is a pleasure to watch - although it's pretty obvious the actress is trying to fight the hands of time.
Some viewers might consider that Stone is a getting a little too long in the tooth to play this character, but I thought that at forty-eight her age - and her lurid type of sagginess - actually contributed to the authenticity of her character. She spends most of the movie spouting lines loaded with sexual insinuation, casually sitting around her pent-house London apartment in heels, tight skirt and full makeup waiting for Dr. Michael Glass (a very hot David Morrissey) to arrive.
The story is convoluted and not that believable and it tries to skewer the original movie whilst also presenting a fresh take on Catherine's murderous escapades. However, it's all good, sordid and garish fun. As the movie begins, Catherine is driving a fast sports car through the deserted streets of London, upon her climax; she crashes it into the river resulting in the death of a major sports star.
Roy Washburn (David Thewlis), a Scotland Yard detective with a bad attitude is convinced that Tramell, who managed to swim to the surface, was responsible for the man's death. She's got the best defense attorney her massive wealth can buy, so Washburn calls in top shrink Michael Glass (Morrissey) to run a forensic psychoanalysis that could nail her.
Of course, Doctor and subject form an attachment, with Glass becoming as sexually obsessed with Tramell. He's warned by Dr. Milena Gardosh (Charlotte Rampling) to stay away, but he just can't help himself. As the murder count piles up, Glass becomes increasingly captivated by "risk addiction" and we never know for sure who is murdering whom.
Sharon Stone is good as Catherine, probably because she knows the part so well, and lets face it - no other actress would dare to play the character. But the real discovery is David Morrissey as Michael Glass. His performance is much better than the film really deserves. He pulls off a multifaceted blend of conceit and scarcely concealed wrath whilst still remaining sympathetic. Thewlis is good too, nabbing all the best lines and sporting a bizarre Welsh accent.
One notable aspect of this movie is the slick and polished production design. In fact, the movie reminded me a little of the brilliant mid-eighties Kim Basinger film 9 ½ Weeks, which has many of the same qualities. Director Michael Caton-Jones has imbued his film a kind of trendy and urban architectural symbolism. Everything is slick and faux designed and London as never looked so fashionable and glamorous.
Glass' office is in one of London's new phallic steel-and-glass buildings, and the City's trendiest clubs and most modernized districts provide the bulk of the film's locations. These images are among the film's sharpest elements. The sex scenes are also quite well done - and are surprisingly hot; there's no doubt that Morrissey has the body to bear it all - although perhaps the lovely Ms. Stone shouldn't be showing as much as she does.
While Basic Instinct 2 obviously lacks the impact of its prequel, as a sexy and stylish thriller, it's still worth watching - and most importantly - it's entertaining. Although there are many mind-messes, red herrings and elementary guilt transferals involving murderous and closeted obsessions, particularly in the third act, the performances, particularly Morrissey's, ultimately make the film worth sitting through. Mike Leonard July 06.