Basic Instinct
Dir: Paul Verhoeven
Star: Michael Douglas, Sharon Stone, Jeanne Tripplehorn
Cert / Year: 18 - R / 1992
Format: DVD R1

An ex-pop star is killed with an ice pick while having sex, and burned out cop Nick Curran (Michael Douglas) is assigned to investigate. All signs lead to the pop star's girlfriend author Catherine Tramell (Sharon Stone), however she has the perfect alibi in that she has already written a book describing the murder exactly. Is she that calculating or is some one from her past trying to hurt her. Nick who is struggling with his own alcohol and drug problem, finds himself leaving behind his girlfriend psychiatrist Beth (Jeanne Tripplehorn) as he is drawn into Catherine's sexual web. Is she the killer, Nick may find out as sleeping with her may just be fatal.

Controversial is a term that Paul Verhoeven is not unaccustomed to. His films are known for excesses in both sex and violence, and Basic Instinct is no exception. This film did much to change attitudes in Hollywood to just how much sex can be shown in a mainstream film. However that was not the main reason for the controversy, no that came from the gay and lesbian community who claimed the film portrayed them in a bad light. True the lesbians in the film are possibly not the nicest of people, however on the other hand it is refreshing to view lesbian characters in a big film that are not charactures. It is perhaps most ironic that all that the protests did was to increase the films publisity and takings.

There is no doubt that the sex is pretty racy, with one infamous scene is now almost legend (you know the one in the interrogation room), but for once it isn't out of place. The subject while maybe not handled sensitively is at least integral to the plot. The same can be said for the violence. So it may not be everybody's cup of tea, but behind the sex it is a very good thriller.

The reasons for this come from unexpected quarters as it is the cast and director that make the film, and not the script and the plot. The cast are excellent. Sharon Stone who at the time was not a major actress, is sensational, both sexy and always control as she seems to manipulate the other characters. A part that many others turned down it proved to be her break into A-list acting. Michael Douglas is also very good (although maybe slightly to old for the part), his character gets better throughout the film as he tries to match Catherine at her own game. Newcomer Jeanne Tripplehorn is also worth a mention a good breakthrough role as Nick's hard done by girlfriend.

The direction is the other major plus point. Paul Verhoeven is really good at this sort of thing. Right from the opening credits he shocks us with gratuitous images. Aided by director of photography Jan de Bont he produced some memorable scenes, best of which has to be either the car chase, or the interrogation scene (not for the reasons that you are now sniggering about. Check the lighting and the use of zoomed facial close ups). The direction really brings out the best of Sharon Stone's performance and is effective in misdirection and tension required in a good thriller.

The problem with the movie is the Joe Eszterhas script, where the plot, while adequate, never provides any shocking twists. Some scenes border on cliché and it is up to the actors and direction to save the day. It is the same with the dialogue which is patchy varing from cheesy to very good. On the whole the film could have been made on a minimal budget by Zalman King starring Shannon Tweed and it would have just been another soft porn thriller. As it is the end result is far more impressive despite the average script.

So controversial maybe, but not a much as some would have us believe. This film certainly pushes the limits for a big Hollywood movie. It is well acted and superbly shot and directed. It is difficult to see any other director other than Paul Verhoeven would have been able to pull this off, he has managed to turn potential soft porn into a interesting and nicely paced thriller.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Picture 2.35:1 Anamorphic Very good with only a minor amount of print damage
Audio Dolby 5.1 Good quality soundtrack
Features Brilliant DVD case moulded as a block of ice. It is transparent revealing not only the DVD but a pen shaped like an ice pick
"Blonde Poison" - Documentary on the Making Of the Film
"Cleaning Up Basic Instinct - A Montage Comparing the TV Version to the Theatrical Version
Commentary with Feminist Critic Camille Paglia
Photo Gallery
Cast and Crew Information
Production Notes
Storyboard Comparisons
Audio Commentary with Director
Hot Scenes The Director Was Forced To Cut
Easter eggs containing the screen tests of the principle actresses. These can be found behind the ice pick icon on the set-up and special features menus.
Verdict A brilliant collectors edition. Loads of extras good transfer and the best DVD case yet.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Reviewed by Glitz Back Top Home