BASIC INSTINCT: UNRATED LIMITED EDITION
Review by Michael Jacobson
Michael Douglas, Sharon Stone, George Dzundza, Jean Tripplehorn
Director: Paul Verhoeven
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Features: See Review
Length: 129 Minutes
Release Date: September 18, 2001
won’t learn anything I don’t want you to know.”
I will. Then I’ll nail you.”
you’ll just fall in love with me.”
in love with you already. But
I’ll nail you anyway.”
a psycho-sexually charged piece of film noir where all characters walk in
shadow, where manipulation is a game to some and destructive to others, and
where judgment is often overpowered by carnal impulses and bare human emotion.
was the first teaming of director Paul Verhoeven with screenwriter Joe Esterhas.
As a team, they would see some less fruitful days in their future, but
they seemed to have everything clicking on their first project together.
The movie is lurid, pushing the envelopes on many fronts (not just in
terms of sex and violence). It
intrigues, repulses, unsettles and mystifies all at the same time.
It has more than one aspect that might make you say, “Hey, WAIT a
minute…” after it’s all said and done, but even that is part of the charm,
for lack of a better word. The more
you think you know, the less you feel like you do.
Curran (Douglas) is a cop who seems capable of walking a thin line.
He’s no man in a white hat; in fact, many of his skeletons are revealed
in rapid-fire fashion. He has problems with booze and drugs. He’s under investigation by Internal Affairs for an
incident where he shot two innocent tourists.
He’s under psychological evaluation from the force shrink Beth Garner (Tripplehorn).
And he’s about to come face to face with a murder mystery that’s way
over his head.
an aging rock star ends up brutally stabbed to death in his bed with an ice
pick, the prime suspect is his longtime girlfriend-of-sorts, Catherine Tramell
(Stone). She has degrees in both
literature and psychology, and she’s also the author of a murder tale in
which…get this…a rock star’s girlfriend murders him with an ice pick.
coyly protests her innocence…after all, would she be dumb enough to act out a
murder scene she herself penned in a best selling novel?
Her mannerisms are sly, her word choices are sinister…and though Nick
should know better, he becomes involved with her, while trying to satisfy his
suspicions that she was indeed the killer at the same time.
At the same time, she makes no bones about her next writing project:
the story of a detective who falls for the wrong girl, and ends up dead.
picture has many satisfying twists, which I won’t spoil for you here.
It all leads up to an ending that some have construed as deliberately
ambiguous…I don’t happen to agree. There
is a certain sense that when it reaches a certain point, only one of two
conclusions are possible, and that the filmmakers picked the one that was the
Although sexual orientation isn’t really an issue
in the story, this film earned quite a reputation for itself by the protests it
merited from certain gay and lesbian groups (and I can’t address their
specific concerns without using spoilers).
Unable to change the film to suit their sensibilities, they tried to
sabotage it instead by revealing the ending far and wide.
Their efforts, of course, failed, as Basic Instinct went on to
become the most successful film of 1992.
But marginal nitpicking aside, I think the film works
masterfully on a character-driven level. We
are intrigued by two main characters who are both morally ambiguous enough to
believe either one is capable of any action, as well as skilled enough to
manipulate the truth and alter situations to their advantage.
In that respect, it’s very much a cat-and-mouse kind of game with a
generous helping of unbridled eroticism. Who
lives and who dies may be directly related to which one is better at the game.
It’s really the only level on which to approach
the film, to my way of thinking. Many
potential filmgoers may have only focused on the reputed sexuality of the film
going in, and that’s a mistake. Sure,
there is much sexuality up for display, but in the context of the mood and
atmosphere of the picture, it doesn’t exactly titillate.
It disturbs and adds to the darkness of the characters.
It’s really the true essence of noir on all levels:
nobody is innocent, everyone has an agenda, and the mistakes of your past
never stop coming back to haunt you.
is a very nicely done anamorphic pressing from Artisan.
The film has several “looks” to it, including naturalistic scenes and
shots that are deliberately manipulated to make you think “hot” and
“cold”. These shots may appear
a bit softer, with more saturated coloring and less definition, but this is an
artistic decision. Normal shots
look absolutely beautiful, with a rich, natural array of coloring, excellent
detail and contrast, and no grain or compression evident to mar the image.
Widescreen is the only way to watch this movie, and this DVD represents
the best possible medium for a home viewing of it.
5.1 soundtrack (2 channel surround also included) is also well done, with plenty
of dynamic range, choice but effective use of the .1 channel, and an open mix of
both effects and music that spreads across all speakers for a lively, ambient
effect (or for a more punchy one during two great car chases).
A very commendable effort.
extras package is impressive, starting with two good commentary tracks.
The first is a detailed behind-the-scenes one by director Verhoeven and
DP Jan De Bont, who discuss the ins and outs of the making of the film in some
technical detail. The second is by feminist film critic Camille Paglia, who
discusses the movie from a fan’s point of view, as well as dismissing the
notion of misogynistic or homophobic undercurrents in it.
is a 24 minute documentary that focuses on the making of the film and features
many crew member interviews, as well as two protestors who talk about why they
targeted the movie and how they tried to bring about change in it.
There is a montage called “Cleaning Up Basic Instinct”, which
only demonstrates the difference between the theatrical and television versions
of the movie (as if we couldn’t guess). There
is a photo gallery, storyboard drawings, talent files, production notes, and a
trailer and TV spot to round out. Complimenting
this limited edition release is a clear case designed to look like a block of
ice, with an ice pick shaped red ink pen that makes for a nice display!
BONUS: Look for two special Easter eggs: one showing rehearsal footage with Sharon Stone, the other with Jean Tripplehorn.
loved by many, hated by others…it’s the kind of film that’s impossible to
be neutral about. Focus on the
characters and their dark, self-destructive behaviors and you have a satisfying
thriller. This nicely packaged
limited edition release from Artisan looks good and sounds good, and should be
considered a must-have for fans.