Eric D. Snider

Basic Instinct 2

We have a winner! The most enjoyable bad movie of 2006 will almost certainly prove to be "Basic Instinct 2," an utterly hilarious piece of camp trash that elicited more laughs from me than "She's the Man," "Larry the Cable Guy" and "Date Movie" combined.

Tragically, "Basic Instinct 2" thinks it is a very serious movie.

Fourteen years have passed since the first "Basic Instinct." Tittering teenage boys who watched the original on cable in hotel rooms while vacationing with their friends' families are now in their early 30s and writing movie reviews. (Or whatever.) But despite the passage of time, the film's legacy remains: It was trashy, exploitative, possibly misogynistic, and definitely ludicrous. It's not remembered as a great movie, just a hot one.

The sequel is transplanted to classy olde England, where Catherine Tramell (Sharon Stone) is still doing her thing. She makes a living writing lurid fiction, and in her spare time she kills men. We see her bump one off before the opening credits have even finished rolling.

She's questioned in the man's death but not charged. Upon being released, she becomes the private patient of the forensic psychologist who examined her for the court. His name is Dr. Michael Glass (David Morrissey), and if you're wondering why a shrink would ever, EVER, in a million years take someone on as a patient whom he had previously analyzed as part of a murder investigation -- well, it's because Catherine is manipulative, seductive and sexy, you see. No man can resist her powers! Even though she's really transparent and it's always obvious what she's doing!

Michael Glass has a rival, a magazine reporter named Adam Towers (Hugh Dancy) who is now dating Michael's ex-wife Denise (Indira Varma). Wouldn't you know it, somebody winds up dead, and Catherine is again a suspect, though she's not the only one who had a motive. A nosy police inspector (David Thewlis) has his eye on Catherine and Michael, but soon facts emerge that cast the cop under suspicion, too.

Is everyone bad? Or is Catherine just really, really good at directing everyone's attention away from herself? And how much suspense can there be about her innocence -- that was the first film's point, you'll recall -- when we SEE her kill someone?

Did I mention she's manipulative, seductive and SEXXXXXXXXY?!!!

Sharon Stone is 48 years old, and she looks fantastic for her age. My compliments to the surgeons, scientists and mystics who have manufactured her. Nonetheless, this is a howlingly bad movie. Directed by Michael Caton-Jones ("Rob Roy," "The Jackal"), it's so utterly convinced it's a tense psycho-sexual thriller that it can't hear the audience laughing at it.

As Catherine, Stone delivers each line of her sub-Lifetime-quality dialogue in a smirky, vixenish fashion, wringing vague double-entendre out of nearly every sentence. Even better is when she narrates paragraphs from the crappy novel she's writing. There, her voice takes on a hilariously detached quality, a sort of seductive monotone that eerily resembles the voice-mail woman who says, "To leave a call-back number, press 5."

Leora Barish and Henry Bean's screenplay doesn't care about the other characters. It gives them things to do, like Michael sleeping with some poor woman as a substitute for his attraction to Catherine, but it doesn't seem concerned about whether we buy it or not.

The film lags quite a bit in its midsection, with zero suspense and zero character development. But the last 20 minutes are overwrought, twisty and jaw-droppingly preposterous enough to be funny. If only the film were a comedy! If only.

Grade: D

Rated R, a lot of explicit sexual dialogue, a lot of strong sexuality and nudity, plenty of harsh profanity, and brief violence

1 hr., 54 min.

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