As a teenager there was really only one reason that I, or any of my friends, bothered to watch 1992’s Basic Instinct. In much the same way as you might have raised an eyebrow had anyone claimed that they read Playboy for the articles (obviously before the internet removed the necessity for such lies – I presume anyone who still buys Playboy today might genuinely be doing so for the articles), you would certainly have had good reason to have been sceptical if any of my peers had made the claim that they watched Basic Instinct for the gripping storyline.
Indeed, such was the notoriety of the movie that when it made its UK bow on terrestrial TV, I videotaped it for a friend. The reason for this was that he really wanted to see it, for reasons that I believe were less than noble, and was too embarrassed to record it himself in case he got caught by his parents. I’m not sure why I was any less concerned at being caught by my parents, but I think, at the time, I reasoned that I had plausible deniability, because I wasn’t actually recording it for myself. Quite why I thought this was any line of defence is anyone’s guess, but I did record it and handed the tape over to my friend without actually watching it. So I hadn’t really ever seen the movie until recently. I mean not all of it anyway…
Technically, then, this is not a ‘film I watched when I was younger’ which has been the qualifying factor for the films I’ve been reviewing in recent weeks. But it is a film that had a role in my youth nonetheless, albeit, on reflection, not my finest hour.
When I saw that it was being shown again on terrestrial TV, I thought it only right that, now I’m a grown-up and my hormones are largely under control, I should watch it, and judge it on its merits as a film.
So I did just that. It is, admittedly, hard to ignore the ‘naughty bits’ because there are so many of them. As per last week’s movie of choice, Total Recall, the director for Basic Instinct was one Paul Verhoeven and he really doesn’t do subtle. Rather than Total Recall’s extreme violence (although Basic Instinct does certainly have a number of scenes of graphic violence), there are instead a lot of sexually explicit scenes.
But sometimes the actors do have their clothes on, and if you don’t fast forward through those scenes, it turns out they are just as pivotal to the plot as the ones where everyone is naked.
The storyline is all kinds of ridiculous, and most of the characters are entirely hard to feel any sympathy for, but Michael Douglas does play Michael Douglas as well in this movie as he plays Michael Douglas in all of his other movies and Sharon Stone plays as good a narcissistic psychopath as any I’ve seen.
Nonetheless, it’s all fairly derivative stuff. Verhoeven definitely knew how to get bums on seats, and frankly, without the movie’s overt sexuality and controversy, I doubt Basic Instinct would have left much of an impression on anyone based solely on it’s plot, but, judged purely on said plot, I have definitely seen worse movies.