Basic Instinct (1992) Film Review by Gareth Rhodes

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

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About garethrhodes

Full-time lover of all things creative.
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14 Responses to Basic Instinct (1992) Film Review by Gareth Rhodes

  1. Mark says:

    It was a stupid film. Michael Douglas was far too old to play Nick, and Sharon Stone couldn’t act. Anyway the police would have solved the murder using DNA.

  2. garethrhodes says:

    With respect Mark, it’s not a stupid film at all. It was treated stupidly upon release and greatly misunderstood in some quarters. To say Sharon Stone couldn’t act shows a deep lack of understanding about the tone of her performance and how it is supposed to reflect that trashy, over the top soap opera inherent in erotic films. Michael Douglas looks great and is totally convincing. His age is never an issue and to say the police would have solved it using DNA, well you could play the logic card at most movies, kind of spoils the fun don’t you think? I appreciate your comment, but as you can tell, i wholeheartedly disagree with you on every point you make.

  3. Mark says:

    Stone never could act at all and only became famous (for five minutes) by getting her tiny fake tits and shaved cunt out for this stupid, very exploitive porn flick.

  4. garethrhodes says:

    You spelt exploitative wrong.

  5. Mark says:

    They should have cast a younger actor like Mel Gibson.

  6. garethrhodes says:

    I disagree. Also, Gibson was stacked up shooting Lethal Weapon 3 and Forever Young.

  7. Mark says:

    Catherine would be considered retarded in real life, talking to the police about “fucking” and taking illegal drugs.

  8. garethrhodes says:

    Your application of the word retarded in relation to Basic Instinct’s Catherine Tramell leads me to assume you don’t fully comprehend it’s correct meaning.

  9. Mark says:

    The whole thing was pointless anyway as the police would have used DNA to jail her, just as they convicted Colin Pitchfork using DNA in 1988.

    Stone was so old, I’m not surprised her “stardom” lasted all of five minutes.

  10. Lloyd Marken says:

    While I disagree with you on the quality of this film I really found your review kinda neat. Besides while there is a lot of things I would argue are wrong with Prometheus Basic Instinct kind of feels like it is what it is. I mean it could be done in a more down to earth way and I’d probably find that a more engaging film but then it wouldn’t be Basic Instinct. I wonder if I’d dig The Fourth Man that you mentioned. In a completely unnecessary side note, I found the sex scene with Jeanne Tripplehorn’s character way more exciting than the much touted main ones but it was a long time ago. What it had to say about gender and sex in a mainstream thriller 20 years ago in America was wild. There is a lot going on in it despite the flash and over the top styling. I don’t know what I’d give it but I’d give your review of it higher marks. 🙂

    • garethrhodes says:

      Thank you for commenting Lloyd, I realise that I’m out on a limb, with Basic Instinct, but there’s something ballsy and go-for-the-jugular about Verhoeven’s style that really grabs me. Yes, it’s heightened, but I think I like it more because it’s dripping in that pulpy cheese, paying massive homage to Hitchcock and every film noir ever produced. The style overload works, like a burger with everything on, that still tastes wonderful. You feel me?

      • Lloyd Marken says:

        Basic Instinct is a unique and interesting movie. I feel you Gareth. 🙂 And speaking of feeling are you digging my shout out to Jeanne Tripplehorn despite Sharon Stone’s illustrious turn as Catherine Trammell?

  11. vinnieh says:

    Cracking review. I’ll have to watch this again as it has been a while.

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