It says a lot about a sequel film when only one thing returns from the original. It also says something when the aforementioned sequel is released almost a decade and a half after the first chapter. It makes you wonder which audience they’re targeting, and exactly who was driving the boat for the project’s creation. In this specific case, the first Basic Instinct made a lot of money but was quite self-contained. Now here’s a pointless sequel in which the only returning player is Sharon Stone.
I suppose that’s the only person who needed to return in order for a sequel to work. Stone was by far the most memorable part of the Paul Verhoeven erotic thriller, and the role helped elevate her into the Hollywood starlight. Now, 14 years later, she reprises her role as an author and psychology genius, Catherine Tramell. We saw her manipulate and play games with a detective in the first Basic Instinct. Here, she decides that a London psychiatrist would be more fun. If she was right, we might have a better movie. David Morrissey is no Michael Douglas.
The film’s opening scene has a death. A speeding car crashes and falls into a river, and the passenger dies. He was a footballer, and the police find out that he was drugged beforehand. The driver was Catherine, who is ordered to undergo psychiatric assessment. Here is where she meets her new toy, Michael Glass (Morrissey). The outcome of the court case won’t surprise you, and Catherine is soon released. Soon, people start dying. Obviously, we think it’s her, but the ambiguity of the first film means we can’t be sure.
We’re presented with multiple ways that these murders could have occurred. Everyone still alive could have done them, and they all have a vague reason to have done so. That is, except Catherine, who needs no reason simply because we know it’s fun for her. She knows and sees all, apparently. The film at one point jokingly describes her as omnipotent, but I think that’s a closer description than it wants to let on. She can do no wrong in her psychological mind games. She always has the perfect answer, excuse, reason, etc.
The plot is a mess and rarely makes sense. It’s convoluted and brings in too many characters whose excuse for existing is that we need more people to suspect of a crime we’re pretty sure they didn’t commit. And if you’re looking for anything in the way of answers, you’re not going to get them from Basic Instinct 2. I mean, you’ll probably be able to discern whether or not Ms. Tramell is behind the murders, but the film tries to make it seem less clear-cut than it actually is.
Like the first film, you’re never going to figure things out — save for the aforementioned “Is she the killer?” — because the film won’t let you. This isn’t a case of you needing to be smarter or more perceptive; the film hides things so that it’s impossible to work through any of the mysteries. It cheats, essentially, and that’s the most frustrating type of thriller. If you can’t rewatch it and learn new things, and you can’t use your brain while it’s playing, what’s the point?
Of course, this was also a problem with Basic Instinct. There are differences, of course. The lurid, sexual nature of the film meant that audiences were titillated and more forgiving. It was 1992, after all, not 2006. Times have changed. That film also had a greater style, having been directed by a man who at least had a vision, even if it wasn’t necessarily a great one. This film seems more director-for-hire. Basic Instinct also had a stronger lead, meaning the back-and-forth between him and Sharon Stone was more enticing. Here, it’s played out.
Which isn’t to say that Sharon Stone has really grown as an actress. You can watch the two films back-to-back and not notice a whole lot of change. Basic Instinct 2 doesn’t ever try to challenge her at her craft — it allows for her to simply monotone every line — and that works to its advantage. The “drama” in Basic Instinct fell flat, so excising it for the sequel was smart. She’s still the seductive manipulator and she is good at that. Stretching that isn’t something she seems willing (or able) to do.
The supporting cast shouldn’t feature as many good names as it does — the film’s lack of quality could tarnish them. Among the names here you’ll find David Thewlis, Charlotte Rampling and Hugh Dancy. Of them, only Thewlis has a major role, playing the head detective tasked in taking down Catherine, because he must have seen the first movie and knew she was the killer. This guy wants to see her put away more than anyone else in the film; it’s actually a little scary how determined he is even without evidence.
So, what do we have with Basic Instinct 2? We get a plot that’s often incomprehensible, a mystery that you won’t be able to solve — not that you’ll care enough to want to — a leading actress who does one thing well but that one thing might not be worth doing, a lack of style or vision, a couple of sexy moments, a lackluster leading man who will be compared unfavorably to Michael Douglas, and a movie not worth your time. That about sums it up.