Trick question: Who was the real star of Basic Instinct? (a) Sharon Stone, (b) a certain body part of Sharon Stone’s, (c) Michael Douglas. Answer: none of the above. Rather, it’s devious Dutch director Paul Verhoeven, whose visual wit and surgical exactitude found just the right pitch between Joe Eszterhas’s absurdly overheated script and Vertigo’s ominous sweep. (He’s since demonstrated the same perverse touch on the neocult classics Showgirls and Starship Troopers.)
Verhoeven has wisely gone AWOL from this sequel, tiresome from its opening moments—a special achievement, because they happen to include 100mph Chunnel speeding, vigorous fingerfucking and an orgiastic plunge into the Thames. Oh, we’re in London now. But simply sub in a tight-jawed shrink (Morrissey, a total vacuum) for the original’s loose-cannon cop and you’ve got the same story 14 years later. Jerry Goldsmith’s keening orchestral theme tries to lure the snake from the basket again, but it won’t rise.
Easy as it is to blame Michael Caton-Jones, one suspects the helmer-for-hire has been pinned to the formula under penalty of ice-picking. Rather, it’s an overall lack of creativity, swaddled in a nakedly cynical grab for your dollar, that sours things. How’s the old gal? Stone knows where her bread is buttered, and she flaunts a well-maintained body. But every line out of her mouth is a clunker, vampy beyond belief, and it’s impossible not to see the whole project as a MILF fantasy gone bonkers. (Opens Fri; see Index for venues.)—Joshua Rothkopf