It is said that the reason there were so many years between the first BASIC INSTINCT and its sequel is that Sharon Stone was waiting for just the right script to do justice to her character, Catherine Trammell, the novelist and putative murderess of the original. She didn’t wait long enough. And judging by the one she did pick, by Leora Barish and Henry Bean, the answer to what would have been the right amount of time to wait would be “forever.” Unless, of course, Stone was looking for another sort of immortality for her cinematic creation, the kind that comes of a film, and a performance, so awful that they become legendary, not to mention big “winners” at the Razzies the following year. This sad little vanity piece is so puffed up with its own self-importance that it floats obliviously over the fact that it is a textbook definition of ridiculous, including the Latin root meaning “to smile”. But it’s more than just smiles to be had here, there are rolled eyes, groans of disbelief, and raucous laughter, too.
Trammell is in London now and, as the film opens, she is speeding through that town at 110 mph with a handsome man in the passenger seat who is under the influence of something that renders him logy. This doesn’t prevent her from indulging in some sexual shenanigans. They go off a bridge in the Thames, one of them drowns, the other, Trammell, of course, is brought up on murder charges. This gives the script a chance to rehash an interrogation room scene from the original film, but not as well and without the leg-crossing incident. Trammel finds other ways to keep herself amused, including making sport of Michael Glass (David Morrissey), the court-appointed psychiatrist who gets to decide if she qualifies for bail and whom she coerces into becoming her personal therapist.
There is no point in going any further into what happens next except to say that, predictably, people in Trammell’s orbit start dropping like flies. This is because the script, so carefully chosen, is a string of implausible events made the more preposterous for being so painfully puerile. No reason is given, for example, about why the police don’t seem to care that she drove off a bridge while engaging in risky behavior once the beats the initial murder charge. Plot twists that are obvious and not what could be termed well thought out, are thrown in to keep things moving, and thereby prolonging the agony. This does not stop the characters from endlessly hashing them out in expositional conversations that may have been intended to throw out red herrings, but instead do everything but paint a big, red, “She did it” over Stone’s head every time she appears on screen. That Stone has confused squinting, sneering, and striking what she must believe to be sultry poses in various states of undress, with acting does not help. In fact, the overall effect makes her a little less seductive than a piece of broken glass. So much for the femme fatale aspect of the story. As for Morrissey, he meanders through the film looking constipated and with all the passion of a dead squid. Or it could just be his way of conveying his character’s essential confusion at everything going on around him. It’s not a stretch to imagine this guy completely flummoxed trying to figure out how to get faucets to work, or that telling him the truth about Santa and the Easter Bunny wouldn’t just shock him, it would devastate him beyond any hope of recovery.
There is, though, something impressive about a film that makes the wrong choices all the way through it. Even the sex is patently yawnable, and that’s with the more successful sequences. When patient and doctor finally dp hit the sheets in what is intended as a culmination of story and colliding passions, what happens, between Stone’s sneering and Morrissey’s constipation face, provoked gales of laughter from the audience with whom I saw this flick, punctuated with the steady snores of someone who had fallen asleep.
It’s understandable that Stone saw a need to get a sequel made before she qualified for Medicare. As such, the film becomes more than just an exercise in schlock filmmaking, BASIC INSTINCT 2 becomes an object lesson in what fear and desperation can do.