Saturday, June 11, 2011

Basic Instinct (1992)

Director: Paul Verhoeven

Starring: Michael Douglas, Sharon Stone, George Dzundza, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Denis Arndt, Leilani Sarelle, Bruce A. Young, Chelcie Ross, Wayne Knight, Stephen Tobolowsky

More info: IMDb

Tagline: A brutal murder. A brilliant killer. A cop who can't resist the danger.

Plot: Facing internal inquiry, Detective Tom Curran (Douglas) doggedly pursues a case involving Catherine Tramell (Stone), a writer and temptress who's suspected in a murder reminiscent of a crime detailed in her book. But as the body count rises, so does Curran's obsession with Tramell.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again? You bet your sweet ice-pickin' ass!

Wow. Where to start on this one? I love this movie. I've seen it probably a dozen times or more and I feel like I know it backwards and forwards, I'm able to recite an awful lot of dialogue. It cheesed me to no end that, upon its theatrical release (where I first saw it), there were large protests by GLAAD and others because of the negative portrayal of bi-sexuals/lesbians. Their big beef (ahahahaha) was that the accused killer was one. If that's reason enough to get pissed about something then every white guy should be incensed that any movie about a serial killer is going to star a white guy. Whatever. It just gave the public more of a reason to see this movie. My other complaint is the rap this flick gets as "that's the one where you see Sharon Stone's cooz, isn't it?" or "that's the movie where Sharon Stone goes lesbo, right?". It's so much more than that but these are the things this movie gets remembered for.

I wish I had a Blu-ray drive on my computer so I could take some screen shots because there are some gorgeous scenes in this thing. BASIC INSTINCT is a modern Film Noir and a good looking one at that. The lighting, shadows, composition makes this more than just some big budget sexy thriller. Sure, the interrogation room is completely dolled up to look neat and stylish but so what. It looks neat and stylish and it's a part of what makes this flick work. It doesn't have to be THAT realistic, does it? This is one of those areas where I exercise my suspension of disbelief.

The performances are a lot of fun across the board with one exception. Douglas is fantastic as usual and feels believable. Stone's star-making performance catapulted her to the A-list overnight and largely due to her infamous clam shot. OK, that shot is great, I'll admit, largely due to A) it's one of those "Did I just see what I thought I saw?" moments, B) it shows how she gets off on manipulating people (especially men) and C) the reaction shots of the guys are priceless and go a long way in injecting humor. It's a really funny scene and that shot was a stroke of genius. I don't believe the bullshit that Stone was unaware and fell victim to Verhoeven's deceit. It was all a publicity stunt.

They're filming the interrogation in that poorly lit room? I love it.

OK, we've gotten past the box shot, what's left? Joe Eszterhas's script. It's not perfect but it's a great story and combined with Verhoeven's direction, it works for me. Some of the dialog is a bit hokey but it's only the odd silly line here and there. Some of it feels contrived and Hollywood stupid but there aren't many of them and they get overshadowed by some really great lines and line deliveries so I can overlook the hiccups.

The sex scene (you can hardly call it a love scene, right?) is pretty damn risque for a Hollywood picture, especially one starring Michael Douglas. It's very well done and hot. There's a ton of nudity (that's one thing you can count on Verhoeven for delivering) and it's good nudity. Is it gratuitous? I say no. This is a sexy psychological thriller and the nudity plays to that without saying, "hey look at my tits" even though you can't help but look at the tits and everything else that's served up. With as much as Douglas was nude I'm surprised Verhoeven didn't include any full frontal on his to speak...but you do get to see the other 95% of Douglas. For a guy that was a couple of years shy of 50, he's in fantastic shape. Good lookin' slender bastard!

The only performance that I have any issue with is Tripplehorn's as Douglas's detective shrink. She's not that great and, most of all, she's got that young and hot look that I just don't buy for a police psychologist. I mean THE police psychologist. It's not like she's one of a few and maybe the new kid on the block. If she is it's never implied. I realize that the reality is a woman that pretty could be but it seems so Hollywood to cast a girl like that for this role. Putting glasses on a girl makes her look like a professional? Really? This is another instance where I have to exercise that suspension of disbelief but not too, too much. She's certainly not a deal killer.

What I love most about BASIC INSTINCT isn't the nudity, the performances, the look, feel, script, etc - it's Jerry Goldsmith's haunting and seductive score. It's a masterpiece when married with the film. From the first notes during the opening credits, you are catapulted into a world of deception, sexuality and murder. It's a perfect score for its visual counterpart and it's his music that makes this film so damn alluring and enjoyable.

BASIC INSTINCT is a pretty damn good picture that has a lot going for it besides the aforementioned public perceptions. It's OK if all you've heard about it is Stone's vertical smile. Hopefully it'll bring you to watch this (or, if you have seen it and didn't think much of it except it was loaded with skin) and you'll see that there's more to this than some silly notoriety and that this is a well-crafted sensual, noirish thriller that deserves your attention. Mmmmmm...vertical smiles...mmmmmm.

Now sing with me..."When you're [vertical] smilin', when you're [vertical] smilin', the whole world [vertical] smiles with you..."

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