Aging ‘Instinct’ needs Viagra

“Basic Instinct” catapulted Sharon Stone — and her casually exposed private parts — into the realm of teenage fantasy. But that was fourteen years ago, when Stone was 34 and uncrossing your legs in a miniskirt was still shocking. Now, perhaps hoping to jump start a stalled career, Stone has squeezed into a few more skimpy (and painfully out of fashion) outfits to slink and fizzle her way into IMDB’s bottom 100 with “Basic Instinct 2.”

Stone reprises her role as novelist Catherine Tramell, who enters the film on trial for murdering a “footballer” (the film is, somewhat inexplicably, set in Great Britain). Perhaps she has fallen victim to bad dialogue or her total lack of chemistry with her costar (Dr. Michael Glass, psychoanalyst extraordinaire), but suddenly Stone isn’t any more appealing than the aging MILF next door. Instead of the force of nature she usually brings to a movie, Stone manages to come across like an awkward high schooler following a how-to guide on seduction and manipulation. Close shots cruelly reveal her crow’s feet, and while she remains a beautiful older woman, it seems that no amount of plastic surgery or forced sexual suggestion can make the aggressive libido of the film work.

As crescendoing Harry Potter-esque violin music tries to fill in for the missing tension, Catherine Tramell becomes the stereotypical dangerous American woman of dramas (and romantic comedies) past, preying on the charming British man whose sense of propriety should place him just outside her reach. In this case, it doesn’t. Instead, Dr. Glass (played by an embarrassingly awkward David Morrissey, whose face can only seem to render abject confusion and uncontrollable lust), crumbles immediately under the force of her spandex wardrobe and begins compromising professional ethics and general morality left and right.

When both Glass and Tramell are implicated in the murder of a snooping journalist, Dr. Glass becomes increasingly obsessed with the sultry sociopath and the power dynamics are dangerously shifted as the weather turns gloomy. In a world where everyone seems to be lying and manipulating, the nice-seeming righteous guy might just be the craziest of all, as his world of rules and limits comes crashing down around him.

Things might have gone to hell even faster — and bored movie goers will likely wish they had — if not for trusty lascivious officer Washburn, played by David Thewlis (Professor Lupin, of the Harry Potter series). Washburn gives Glass a reason to make his “confusion” face and forces a tiresome back and forth of the good doctor’s allegiances — a dilemma that monopolizes more than half the movie and is only settled in a fairly arbitrary rain of gunfire in the last five minutes.

The film was uncalled for and doomed from the start. The awkward heavy handedness is painful, both in comparison to the original and in comparison with run of the mill soft core porn. Filmmaker Michael Caton-Jones (“The Jackal”) pulls out all the stops, and without any sense of limits the film goes careening into a shallow, and nearly plotless, oblivion. From overtones of lesbianism to erotic asphyxiation to the ever-present (and ever-phallic) backdrop of London, “Basic Instinct 2″ does its porno past proud by offering only the briefest interludes between the sex (and the sex) and the violence. It is perhaps a reassuring testament to the remaining dignity of American culture, then, that this movie is not breaking box office records.

Ultimately, those who see this movie are coming for the money shot (Will she? Won’t she? Do I even want her to?). But even this hope rings false. We’ve already seen what she has to offer — we could even pause and rewind to our hearts content if we bought the DVD — and there is a twisted sort of voyeurism in our curiosity over the progression of Stone’s nether regions. That said, I won’t ruin it for anyone still hoping to sneak a peek.

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