Basic Instinct

1992, R, 123 min. Directed by Paul Verhoeven. Starring Michael Douglas, Sharon Stone, George Dzundza, Jeanne Tripplehorn.

REVIEWED By Kathleen Maher, Fri., March 27, 1992

Even without the controversy, Basic Instinct is a cold and heartless movie. In it, Stone plays a seductive bisexual suspected of murdering her lover. The cop on the case, Douglas (who returns to the Streets of San Francisco), can't keep his hands off Stone in spite of the obvious ethical problems involved. It's not his fault, she leads him on. She leads everyone on including her muscular lesbian lover, the other cops on the case, her older woman friend (Malone, playing a woman who murdered her family), and she certainly leads us on. This obscenely wealthy woman collects people with murder in their past as characters for her books. She's too beautiful, she is altogether too fond of sex, she is definitely guilty of something. Verhoeven's film is fascinating, if stupid and stylish, if shallow. The story has to move along at a fair clip because otherwise we'd notice how nonsensical it all is. And there is very little to connect with emotionally. The characters are simply unattractive. In this, it probably is a good movie for gay activists to take a stand on. Truly, I don't think the right or the left should dictate who goes to what movie, but the activists should be heard and this movie, the highest grosser this week, is a good platform. The protest is not about one character who is bisexual and who is suspected of murder. Activists are protesting that there are a number of gay characters in this movie and not one of them is presented as a normal, healthy adult. Actually, it seems that female sexuality, as usual, is the source of all evil in Basic Instinct. But it's also true that Verhoeven finds human sexuality fascinating and he uses it in all its forms to seduce the audience. He challenges the preconceptions of an audience titillated by Stone's bisexuality. He overplays his hand, however and by the end of the film, after a few too many cute misdirections, you just won't want to go all the way with him.

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More Paul Verhoeven Films
Riveting yet perplexing, this psychological thriller is a stunner

Marjorie Baumgarten, Dec. 23, 2016

Black Book
Although in many ways a characteristically perverse Paul Verhoeven spectacle, this Dutch World War II resistance story is more morally shaded as well as handsomely mounted and suspenseful.

Marrit Ingman, April 27, 2007

More by Kathleen Maher
Incident at Oglala
British filmmaker Apted makes a carefully reasoned, yet passionate statement about the legal system that has ensnared American Indian Movement activist Leonard Peltier.

July 10, 1992

Titicut Follies
Wiseman filmed conditions in the Bridgeport Mental Hospital with a bare minimum of crew and equipment, which resulted in a devastatingly candid view of life behind the high walls of a state mental hospital for the criminally insane.

July 10, 1992


Basic Instinct, Paul Verhoeven, Michael Douglas, Sharon Stone, George Dzundza, Jeanne Tripplehorn

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