Basic Instinct was released in 1992. Directed by Paul Verhoeven, it starred Michael Douglas and Sharon Stone. Nowadays this combination seems like a guaranteed success, but things were very different back then. In fact, at the time the movie was surrounded by controversy, Douglas feared that a film with such a high erotic content could damage his career, and Sharon Stone was practically unknown (although she had been great in Total Recall two years before, another Verhoeven film). The following are just some of the reasons for controversy:
- The European director declared that he wanted to make the first US mainstream film with full male nudity, which in the end he didn’t;
- In the midst of the AIDS paranoia, the film was criticized for the lack of use of condoms;
- Some groups of activists for LGBT rights boycotted the movie due to the perceived negative role of homosexual and bisexual characters in it. Is that enough for you?
But after 27 years (!) I am here to write about the film, not about the controversy that is now forgotten! I recently saw the film for the first time (despite being an estimator of Verhoeven’s other works including the aforementioned Total Recall and the amazing Robocop, 1987) and I loved it. I found it a well-made thriller, well directed, well acted, and with a plot that, although a bit intricate and sometimes hard to believe, after all holds up. And then… Sharon Stone is astonishing in this movie. Playing an intelligent writer, she shines in every scene, every dialogue, every movement. She’s practically the definition of sexy. She captures the viewer’s attention from beginning to end and she manages to insinuate the doubt over her intentions and her possible involvement in the murders of the film. It’s hard to believe that she wasn’t even remotely the first actress that the producers had in mind for the role! She’s so good that I can’t imagine this film with any other actress playing the lead character.
Apart from the beautiful and talented Sharon Stone, Verhoeven did a great job. He decided to begin the movie with an unforgettable scene (the murder of Johnny Boz, played by Bill Cable, during sexual intercourse), and for the rest of the movie he kept the pace and tension at incredibly high levels. Michael Douglas plays a detective, Nick Curran, who has a stormy past and a present that is about to be changed completely by the arrival in his life of Catherine Tramell (Sharon Stone). And this happens when he hasn’t yet moved on from the failed relationship with his psychologist (!) Beth Garner (Jeanne Tripplehorn) with whom he has a sex scene which is borderline rape. Add to the mix the dark Roxy (Leilane Sarelle) in love with Catherine and the result is an explosive cocktail!
Although the plot becomes perhaps a bit too intricate at some point, the beauty of the film lies in the development of the relationships between all these characters, all very enigmatic but still credible. In other words, everyone’s motivations are clear and the ending makes sense! And what a finale! I don’t want to reveal anything for those who haven’t seen this film yet, but it’s great and the movie itself probably had a remarkable role in pushing Hollywood to include more explicitly sex in its films (Verhoeven shows a lot here, and it seems that Sharon Stone had no stand-in for the scenes in which her character was naked).
Finally, the soundtrack signed by Jerry Goldsmith is splendid, the cast is full of respectable secondary actors (for example, Mitch Pileggi, that is Skinner in The X-Files; Wayne Knight, that is Dennis Nedry in Jurassic Park; Stephen Tobolowsky, that is the Captain of the Guard in Spaceballs…); there are some adrenaline-fueled and well-shot car chase scenes… this is undoubtedly one of the best products of the nineties! Ciao!