Basic Instinct (1992) Directed by Paul Verhoeven. With Michael Douglas, Sharon Stone and Jeanne Tripplehorn.
The storm of controversy surrounding its cinematic release, was the best thing that could have happened to Basic Instinct, for it spawned a self-perpetuating and completely free marketing campaign that helped score the film a huge box office performance, while simultaneously launching the career of Sharon Stone from bit-part player, to bona fide ‘A’ lister.
The American phase of Verhoeven’s career was a breath of fresh, bloody air. He was like a rock star film maker. His often seedy, violent vision wasn’t to everyone’s taste, but like the American bands that were selling out stadiums in the late 80’s and early 90’s, his films revelled in that sense of glorious excess. Sometimes they burned (Showgirls springs to mind), but nevertheless, they burned bright.
What’s pleasing seeing the film twenty years on, is just how well it stands up. The central performances from Stone and Douglas are hugely entertaining, and their fizzing chemistry is served well by Joe Eszterhas’ excellent screenplay. Director, Paul Verhoeven, uses every Hitchcockian trick in the book to achieve a delightfully pulpy slice of Hollywood bravado. Sharon Stone, who had previously worked with Verhoeven on Total Recall, conjures a screen icon with her aggressive portrayal of blonde femme fatale, Catherine Tramell, a wealthy author who may or may not be offing people in the same way described in her books. Stone’s now famous interrogation scene has been imitated and parodied countless times, but is one of many the playful scenes in which Tramell teases and taunts her prey in the most irresistible fashion.
The film has moments of excessive sex and violence, but it’s all in there to serve story and depth of character. Robbing it of these aspects would significantly diminish its overall prowess. Paul Verhoeven is no stranger to this material; indeed, his own 1983 Dutch language erotic thriller, ‘The Fourth Man’, plays very similar beats to Basic Instinct, a clear forerunner to its more polished and entertaining sibling. Jerry Goldsmith’s score provides added intrigue to what is a memorable psychological thriller, disguised as a trashy throw-away piece of pulp fiction. So many great moments, so many great lines and like any top quality piece of cinema, gets better with age. A classic. 5/5