Basic Instinct

Movie Review #958


Nationwide release on March 20, 1992. Drama/Mystery/Thriller. This version of the film is unrated. Theatrical release rated R for strong violence and sensuality, and for drug use and language. Originally rated NC-17. Runs 128 minutes. Theatrical release runs 127 minutes. A French-American co-production. Directed by Paul Verhoeven. Written by Joe Eszterhas. Cast: Michael Douglas, Sharon Stone, George Dzundza, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Denis Arndt, Leilani Sarelle, Bruce A. Young, Chelcie Ross, Dorothy Malone, Wayne Knight, Daniel Von Bargen, Stephen Tobolowsky, Benjamin Mouton, Jack McGee, Bill Cable, Stephen Rowe, and Mitch Pileggi.


By Alexander Diminiano

Note: This is a review of the Unrated Director’s Cut.

“She’s evil! She’s brilliant!” That line right there is perhaps the finest set of four words in the great (in both a meaningful and a sarcastic sense) screenplay that is “Basic Instinct”. Follow that line with “She’s Sharon Stone!”, and you have a tagline for the movie that fits it better than any–one that evokes the low-key, even hokey, but nonetheless grin-inducing attire Paul Verhoeven captures.

The film is clearly inspired by Twin Peaks, which was halfway through its second season upon the mid-March release of “Basic Instinct”. Verhoeven’s vision of the murder mystery genre is both erotic and surreal, with a couple of unexpectedly offbeat characters that offset the balance of so many stock characters. Against the cliché “film-noir detective” roles played by Michael Douglas and George Dzundza, Sharon Stone and Jeanne Tripplehorn seem ten times more stellar embodying the two femmes fatales.

“Basic Instinct” marks one of the finest scores of Jerry Goldsmith’s career. The subtle, brooding nature of this thriller is not identified without this music. Goldsmith brings out an immensely powerful insignia of neo-noir, even more than in his previous score, “Cape Fear”. Granted, it doesn’t work perfectly when Verhoeven’s réalisation doesn’t. More often than it should, “Basic Instinct” diverts our attention from the sex-and-violence crime procedural that so enthralls us and momentarily turns itself into a “basic” action movie. But that doesn’t take away from all that adds up to one of the most memorable neo-noirs of the nineties.


One thought on “Basic Instinct

  1. I’m SO happy you liked this. Erotic thrillers are hard to pull off effectively, and when you have one that succeeds like Basic Instinct, I feel mainstream reviewers should be a bit less strict.

    Also, although I usually dislike ambiguous endings, I actually loved the uncertainty that the Basic Instinct ending had.

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