|Cinema Signals by Jules Brenner:|
The Unauthorized Biography of Sharon Stone
"Basic Instinct 2"
From the time she drives through a tunnel and across the streets of London at 100 mph, while having sex, flying off a bridge as speeding automobiles will when they hit the air, sinking in the harbor, lackadaisically exiting through a window and calmly rising to the surface like a carefree water sprite, we know we're in for stretching a point for the sake of attention-getting fiction in a star vehicle for Sharon Stone that's up to her vixenish tastes. There may be some drowning in its own excess, but there's fun in this psycho-thriller for the voyeur, as well.
While a certain designed vulgarity in the original "Basic Instinct" raised many an eyebrow and protests from the religious gallery, the success of it demanded a sequel which, 14 years and a session or two under the scalpel later, this is. Its imitative quality dulls the sensation of scandal but Stone is in her element in a scenario that revolves around her exhibitionist femme fatale character. She's having the time of her life even if some of the earlier strands of lust and crime are subdued or missing.
Ostensibly, everything Catherine Tramell (Stone) does is either intended as research for her next book or to enhance the sales of the last one. As if. But whatever it is that motivates this babe, her complete detachment of feeling for the death of her companion riles the police when she's interviewed. That is, when they can breathe again after hearing the level of callous indifference she expresses.
Scotland Yard homicide detective Roy Washburn (David Thewlis) is enraged enough to try to make the most of the drug evidence found in the car but incriminating her for it is no slam dunk. Enter police appointed therapist Dr. Michael Glass (David Morrissey) for a psych evaluation, providing the suspect with a new challenge--him.
Her smooth techniques of asserting control at all times prove a serious challenge to the good doctor's professional objectivity but, he admirably holds fast to his tenets of analysis and, in her court trial, testifies that she's a manipulative liar whose drug of choice is high risk. She would, therefore, be harmful to herself and others were she to be released. Still no slam dunk. Moments later, she's free on a technicality and in the doctor's face.
From here it's a mind game and sexual challenge between shrink and patient, with plenty of role reversal, murder, and control. As detective Washburn tries to track her down, she counters with an attack on his character as a cop with a stain on his integrity, causing the doctor to question whom to blame. He consults his close friend and colleague Milena Gardosh (Charlotte Rampling) whom he eventually clings to for his own sanity while under the growing spell of his "patient." Will the doctor lose it? Is the patient's power of seduction irresistible?
While the monster-in-control (vamp or mind vampire?) is juicily maintained by an empowered Stone whose sheer style distracts from incredulity, we live the doubts and fears through him. But therein lies a major problem. Morrissey's acting is... shall we say... thin? His expressiveness is as colorless as Stone's is untramelled. (Sorry). This British actor is very experienced but his ability to convey a sympathetic level of humanity while under the influence of a deadly attraction is so enervated at times, the casting becomes an aggravation. On the other hand, Thewlis is true and Rampling is classy.
The production is completely praiseworthy in all departments, most especially in production design (Norman Garwood), art direction (James Foster and Paul Inglis), cinematography (Gyula Pados), and Stone's makeup (Tricia Sawyer). Stone is still very much there for her trademark stunning beauty and energy of performance. Where the nearly universal panning reactions by critics prove to be justified is in the pushiness of the theme and a script that, in its manipulations on a par with its central figure, will do anything and go anywhere to aim toward another sequel than to remain within the scope of psychological possibility and an organically required resolution.
A note to Director Caton-Jones and his writers Leora Barish and Henry Bean: it could have ended with her in shackles and still maintain the basis for a third go.
The Soundtrack Album