Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 56 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Strong Sexuality, Nudity, Violence, Language and some Drug Content
Directed by: Michael Caton-Jones
Written by: Leora Barish & Henry Bean
Starring: Sharon Stone, David Morrissey, Charlotte Rampling, David Thewlis, Flora Montgomery, Heathcote Williams & Hugh Dancy
1992’s BASIC INSTINCT ignited a firestorm of controversy and became a rapid success. The dark thriller features one of the best femme fatales to ever grace the silver screen and still holds up to this day. Last week, I watched BASIC INSTINCT for the first time and decided to give a gander to its sequel. To say that BASIC INSTINCT 2 wasn’t as successful as its predecessor would be a massive understatement. This film spent over a decade in development hell, debuted at #10 in its opening weekend, and was heavily panned by critics and audiences alike. This all being taken into consideration, I’d be lying if I said that I stuck on BASIC INSTINCT 2 with high expectations. I was sort of anticipating a trainwreck of a thriller. BASIC INSTINCT 2 is definitely a bad movie, but I found a few redeemable qualities that kept it from being terrible in my eyes.
Years have passed since the events of the first film and author/psycho Catherine Tramell is now residing in London. After one of her lovers dies in a very public accident, Catherine is the prime suspect in a potential murder case. Detective Roy Washburn wants Catherine put away behind bars and calls in psychiatrist Michael Glass to give his perp an evaluation. When a careless judge lets her off the hook, Catherine’s therapy sessions with Glass take a more seductive turn. With Catherine free to roam the streets and a body count steadily rising, Glass becomes obsessed with Catherine and finds himself to be the potential suspect a latest series of murders. You can probably guess where this is going, especially if you’ve seen the first film.
BASIC INSTINCT 2 tries to recapture the combination of suspense and sexiness that made the first film into something special. This lackluster sequel doesn’t quite get the complicated combo down for a number of reasons. The biggest one being the passage of time and Sharon Stone looking like she’s 50% plastic. You can tell that this sequel was probably a vanity project for her as it allowed the aging Stone to reprise her most famous role for one last run. Those words might sound a little harsh, but that’s the vibe I got while watching the film. BASIC INSTINCT 2 adds little changes to the first film’s formula, but doesn’t go as far as mixing up major plot points. You pretty much know where this story is heading from the first frame. While that might not be an awful thing (especially seeing how well the first film works), the recreation of certain scenes feel like pale imitations of a much better film. These moments include Glass having rough sex with a love interest (much in the same way that Douglas did with this therapist) as well as an ending that relies on the exact same plot twists that the original had (with less steamy sex in the final minutes).
There are differences that separate BASIC INSTINCT 2 from BASIC INSTINCT. For example, the first film ran at a breakneck pace that never gave the viewer time to breathe and this sequel drags during numerous spots (especially in the middle). David Morrissey’s Glass is seemingly smarter (and more unlikable) than Michael Douglas’s Nick. As a result, it’s surprising when an unusually wooden Morrissey announces that he’s fallen for psycho Stone. This is especially frustrating because, up to that point, we’ve seen nothing on-screen to indicate this being a believable plot progression (besides the screenplay requiring it to happen). The sex scenes are also bland and boring as opposed to erotic and suspenseful, though this probably results from the dull characters and a lack of high stakes at hand.
At the beginning of this review, I said that I found some decent qualities in BASIC INSTINCT 2. There are definitely a few redeeming positives that save the film from being an utter disaster. One of which is how slick the visuals look. There was clearly a budget spent on this long-delayed follow-up (around 75 million, of which less than half was returned domestically at the box office). David Thewlis is solid as a potentially shady detective. He could have been the main character this time around and the film would have been far more entertaining. Though it follows the blueprint of the original’s finale, I also enjoyed the ending of this film. It hit some pretty dark notes and I enjoyed the slight twist on a formula that seemed very familiar.
To be clear, BASIC INSTINCT 2 is not a good sequel or satisfying thriller. It’s a bad movie, but I’d argue that it’s not quite as horrible as people make it out to be. The film hits the same notes as the original, but plays them in a slightly campier tune. I enjoyed certain aspects of this film (the ending, Thewlis, the visuals), while the rest of the movie winds up in various degrees of mediocrity and is obviously desperate to recapture the spirit of the far superior first film. Unless you absolutely have to see the disappointing follow-up to the first film for whatever reason, I’d recommend skipping BASIC INSTINCT 2 and sticking with the original.