Gautaman Bhaskaran
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Basic Instinct 2 – A study in desperation: Review

Cinemas’s latest passion is sequels.

This follows literature’s, where we have had stories being continued into the next book. “Rebecca” flowing into “Mrs de Winter” is the best example of this. But we have also had authors such as Margaret Mitchell who abhorred a sequel to her great classic set during the bloody American Civil War, “Gone with the Wind”. She one famously quipped, “What would I call my second work with the same characters, ‘Back with the Breeze ?”. But well, a sequel did emerge long after Mitchell’s tragic death in a road accident in 1949, but the publisher was carefull (and respectful) enough not to call it “ Back with the Breeze”. Instead, it was titled “Scarlett”, after the original’s plucky protagonist.

Sometimes, cinema feeds literature: a sequel to memorable “Casablanca” can now be had in a printed form, and is called, “As Time Goes By”, a line taken from a deeply touching song in the celluloid version.

Sharon Stone
But, often, sequels disappoint, maybe because of the time lag, which takes away a certain allure from a follow-up narrative. Paul Verhoeven’s 1992 “Basic Instinct” was a hot hit, largely because the story had a certain novelty then with an author of crime fiction crossing and uncrossing her legs and being suspected of using an ice pick to murder her lovers. Sharon Stone playing the sensous writer became a kind of craze that was quite hard to explain.

Michael Caton-Jones’ sequel, “Basic Instinct 2” (released in India in April 2006), has Stone again as a novelist penning crime thrillers in a movie that fails to grab your attention, despite the aging actress’ effort to seduce you with sex and excitement. We do have a detective like Michael Douglas, portrayed by David Thewlis (as Roy Washburn), but unlike the original, it is a pscho-analyst ( David Morrissey as Dr Michael Glass) who falls for Stone’s fatal charm.

There are two extremely provocative scenes in Caton-Jones’ film: the opening scene of Catherine Tramell (Stone) of pleasuring herself while driving through London. The man beside her may have something to do with her state of orgasmic delight, and when in the height of it all, a moaning Tramell plunges her car into the Thames, we know that the man will not live. The second clip that is meant to evoke and arouse is the one where we see Dr Glass trailing Tramell into a brothel where she subjects herself to violent sex.

It now becomes clear that the director is desperate to transport an aging, though admittedly very well preserved, Stone back in time. Does he succeed ? Hardly, I would think, because to begin with, the style and plotline suggest that Caton-Jones is trying to parody “Basic Instinct 1” with very little success. Caton-Jones’ does not achieve Verhoeven’s sleek feel, and in the sequel, two wonderful actors, Rampling (remember her in Francois Ozon’s “Swimming Pool”, where she is a reclusive writer?) and Thewlis are shamefully wasted in insignificant parts.

In the final analysis, “Basic Instinct 2” has all the ingredients of boredom, and only a diehard fan of Stone would like to pull through the two-hour drama that has, well, little of drama and more of cliches.

(This review appeared in The Hindu dated April 28 2006)

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