Basic Instinct 2
Directed by Michael Caton-Jones

Written by Leora Barish and Henry Bean, based on characters created by Joe Eszterhas

Starring Sharon Stone


Basic Instinct 2

They say that our faces reveal our feelings, but as with most rules there are exceptions. The notable one today is Sharon Stone. It's creepily fascinating to watch her 47-year-old face as she tries to express something - anything - in "Basic Instinct 2." She's either been Botoxed or tightened up so far that she no longer has even the little wrinkles around the eyes that the rest of us get in our twenties. Another critic has described her as the winner in the soccer moms' Amanda Bynes-lookalike competition.

I happen to think Stone is at the least a competent actress, and sometimes a very fine one; see Martin Scorsese's "Casino" for proof, along with Albert Brooks's "The Muse" for a sample of her wicked ability to satirize herself. "Basic Instinct 2" reprises her role as novelist Catherine Tramell from the first film, and shows her once again serenely leaving a trail of death and insanity in her wake. But in order to work as a thriller this film needs more than a blank face at the center of it.

Now she's in London, researching her next novel; the opening sequence shows her driving her souped-up sports car through the city at a hundred miles an hour, with a soccer star in the passenger seat. He's strangely passive as she takes his finger, wets it and places it on herself right where it will do her the most good. But at the moment of climax she loses control of the car, it sails into the Thames, and only she gets out. But wait: the police find curare in his body, and it turns out he'd stopped breathing before they hit the water. She's held for trial but gets released on a technicality, even though psychiatrist Dr. Michael Glass (David Morrissey) described her in court as someone seriously in need of help. Unaccountably he then takes her on as a patient, which as most of us could have told him was not only an ethical violation but one that is going to lead him to a bad end in this film.

Along the way Catherine manages to be either present or nearby when a number of other characters meet their maker, among them Michael's ex-wife, her current lover the muckraking tabloid journalist Adam Towers (Hugh Dancey), a young woman Michael is interested in, and even poor Charlotte Rampling, no doubt glad to be taken out of the film. Saddest of all is the termination of bulldog detective Roy Washburn (David Thewlis), who's about to pin things on Catherine when - oh, well, life is hard and then you die.

I've been harsh on "Basic Instinct 2" because it's a bad film, but it's also a fun film to watch, and had it been given a better script, particularly in its second half, might even have become a classic of the genre; the film makes the mistake of substituting action for suspense, when it is suspense that makes a classic. I'm hoping there won't be a "Basic Instinct 3," because by then Ms. Stone's whole body might be paralyzed.