'Basic Instinct' lacks passion, intrigue to be more than a whodunit

VIDEO

October 16, 1992|By Scott Hettrick

BASIC INSTINCT

(Live Home Video, 1992).

If this film appeals to our basic instincts, or if the impersonal and rough sexual encounters depicted are representative of our instinctive behavior, then it is a powerful and disturbing commentary on humanity. But, of course, it is none of those things. It is not even a very satisfying piece of entertainment.

The film stirred a lot of interest when it was learned that a star of the caliber of Michael Douglas would co-star in the sex-charged mystery that was so sexually explicit that it was rated NC-17 before 47 seconds were cut.

The public's interest was not difficult to fathom, given the level of graphic violence and brutality that has become acceptable in cinema. Audiences understandably expect a higher degree of explicit eroticism from their favorite stars. No doubt they will eventually be satisfied and undoubtedly someone will find a way to portray vivid sex in cinema in a way that is both intensely erotic and socially acceptable. After all, the only difference between pornography and artistic entertainment is the quality of the work. But "Basic Instinct" is an example how it is done poorly: mechanically and passionlessly.

Most of the sex occurs between Douglas' tormented San Francisco detective character, Nick Curran, and the prime suspect in a sex-related murder investigation, enigmatic author Catherine Tramell (Sharon Stone). The two are magnetically drawn to each other like zombies to warm flesh. Their relationship is no more romantic; lots of rubbing against each other, fast disrobing and flesh-pounding, with never a thought of tenderness or an intellectual connection.

As for the story, which seems an afterthought, this is no more than a below-average whodunit with stereotypical characters, a barrage of cheap manipulations and an incongruous finale.

Curran's fluttering liaison with the police psychologist is not at all believable, which is a giveaway that the only reason she was created was because she figures in a plot twist.

None of the characters have more than a single layer of depth, and not one of them is remotely likable. But if you want even more vacuous sex and brutal violence than is offered in this 123-minute R rated cassette, the excised 47 seconds will be restored along with behind-the-scenes footage for a special laserdisc edition (released Nov. 19) and on a second videocassette, to be released next spring.

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