Someone should tell Sharon Stone that you can’t step in the same river twice. Or you can’t go home again. Or that for every Godfather II there are a hundred Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloos.
Anything to stop another big, boring mess like this one.
A bit of credit to director Michael Caton-Jones, who knows how to shoot sleeky, sexy architecture, even if his idea of symbolism is to have the office of his psychiatrist leading man in London’s striking, if often jeered-at “gherkin” building. And even if he makes the sets more lively than the actors. Indeed, when one character is supposed to become catatonic, it’s almost impossible to tell the difference.
Stone returns as bad girl Catherine Davis Tramell a “risk addict” whose sensational novels are inspired by her even more sensational life. Before the credit sequence has ended, we see her having sex with a drugged-out partner while driving a car over 100 miles an hour. The car crashes into the Thames, and the man, a well-known soccer star, is killed. Dr. Michael Glass (his name is this movie’s idea of subtlety) (David Morrisey) is brought in to determine whether Tramell is culpable for his death.
Then a bunch more people get killed in scenes that are more static than scary and there are some sex scenes that are more clinical than sultry.
And there is a lot of dialogue with a chasm so yawning between its intention (provocative) and its reality (see previous reference to yawning) that it starts to sound like the adults in Charlie Brown cartoons: “Waughghgh Waughghg Waughghgh”
They may think that if they surround her with people who have English accents it will all seem less shlocky. No such luck.
Marlene Dietrich was once supposed to have complained to her cameraman that he was not making her look as good as he had a decade earlier. “But Miss Dietrich,” he is said to have assured her gallantly, “I was ten years younger then.”
Sharon Stone was fourteen years younger when she made the first Basic Instinct. And so were we. This creates two sets of problems.
First, she can’t surprise us any more. Both actress and character were new to us in 1992; now that famous dress, chair, cigarette, and leg-cross are an icon. At the time, it was all new. She pushed the boundaries. But those boundaries have been shoved another couple of football fields since then, and Stone and her director and screenwriter have not managed the delicate task of finding that precise spot between provocative and gross.
Second, instead of rethinking the character, Stone tries to go back to where she was and it just doesn’t work. If Tramell had actually survived another fourteen years of sex, drugs, and lots of people turning up dead wherever she went, she would be affected by that. Stone’s astonishing, assured performance in the original movie was a model of careful calibration of the power of her sexuality and daring. But the sexual power of a 48-year-old is different from the sexual power of a 34-year-old. Stone, whose portrayal of mature sexiness was breathtaking in last year’s Broken Flowers, is so over-the-top here that Tramell appears to be channeling Cruella De Vil. Or maybe Carol Burnett vamping as “Nora Desmond.” “Time is a weapon,” one character says in this movie. In this case, a lethal one.
Parents should know that this movie has just about every kind of material that is inappropriate for younger viewers or sensitive viewers of any age, with extremely strong, crude, and profane language, drinking, smoking, drug use, intense peril and graphic violence, murders, and general bad behavior in all categories.
Families who see this movie should ask why anyone would be “addicted” to risk. How are we supposed to feel about Catherine at the end of this movie? What is a “masked psychotic” and is there one in this story?
Families who enjoy this movie should see the original. They might also enjoy The Jagged Edge, Sea of Love, Final Analysis, Whispers in the Dark, and Dressed to Kill.