Basic Instinct (UK - BD RA/B)
Scott McKenzie thinks this sleazy movie deserves a suitably sleazy review...
When a retired rock star is murdered in his bed, the case is assigned to Detective Nick Curran (Michael Douglas), who is attempting to piece his life back together after getting over drink, drugs and a shooting incident. The prime suspect is the author and heiress Catherine Trammell (Sharon Stone), a manipulative woman who draws Curran into her world. He begins a dangerous game with her, suspecting her of murder, but struggling to find the evidence he needs to arrest her. All the while, the bodies start piling up.
That was a polite way of summarising the plot of Basic Instinct. Here's another, probably more suitable summary given the subject matter:
Spoiler The movie opens with a blonde shagging an old dude, who she kills with an ice pick. Michael Douglas brings Sharon Stone in for questioning and she flashes her clout, which gets him drinking again and makes him horny so he knocks Jeanne Tripplehorn's back doors in. We then get another hour and a half of Douglas wondering whether she's the killer, along with him getting his ass out far too often, plenty of choreographed sex and a bit of lesbian action thrown in. Turns out she did it. Hey, this bit is in spoiler tags—what did you expect?
Basic Instinct is a film of strange extremes. At times it's an enjoyable sleazy noir detective movie, but at other (more frequent times) it's just plain sleazy. It was director Paul Verheoven's intention to make a movie that pushed the boundaries back in 1992 and it certainly succeeds in that respect. There is never a missed opportunity to talk about sex, show it on screen or lower the tone even further. The sex scenes were meticulously planned and shot and according to IMDb, Sharon Stone referred to herself and Michael Douglas as ‘the horizontal Fred and Ginger of the 90s’.
Even though Paul Verhoeven and writer Joe Eszterhas had disagreements on set, they would team up again three years later to delve down to untapped levels of sleaze with Showgirls. Even though Eszterhas write the screenplay in a matter of days, there are a decent number of enjoyable moments in the story. Catherine Trammell in particular is a compelling character, a pure femme fatale that doesn't have the Hays Code to hold her back. There are also a few red herrings thrown in to screw with the viewers and there is a good mystery here if you can wade through the trashiness to get to it.
Michael Douglas had already made Wall Street, Fatal Attraction and Black Rain, so he was a shoo-in for the anti-hero role of Curran. Sharon Stone already had roles under her belt in Total Recall and erm... Police Academy 4 so she was still a relative newcomer. It's easy to see why this was her breakthrough role, even if she ended up playing similar roles in movies like The Specialist throughout the 90s. After reading Robert Evans' The Kid Stays in the Picture’, it's also difficult to imagine that she's any different in real life as well.
In these post-modern times it did feel a bit like an X-rated spoof of old detective movies rather than a bona fide (pun intended) mystery in its own right. While I was watching Basic Instinct I couldn't help but draw comparisons with High Anxiety, Mel Brooks' homage to Hitchcock, and the numerous nods to Vertigo didn't help matters. At sixteen years old, I didn't think it was showing its age too much. Until the nightclub scene that is. The music and dancing are a dead giveaway of early 90s fashion and takes you out of the movie the same way that Color Me Badd do in New Jack City.
Sharon Stone flashes us in full HD glory. That's what you wanted to hear, wasn't it? Oh, you want more? OK. Basic Instinct is presented in 2.35:1 at 1080p and just like the movie itself, the picture quality is a case of extremes. The best moments are wide shots of the sunny San Francisco skyline and close ups of the actors are more detailed than you might expect from a movie this old. However, to a certain degree, grain is a problem throughout the movie. The opening credits could have been an opportunity to show off the detail available in high definition but instead I was put off by the graininess. The colours are a little dull as well, with black looking too grey for my liking.
This disc comes with a DTS-HD Master Audio track, but unlike the video quality, it's pretty much average all the way through. Jerry Goldsmith's score is one of my favourite aspects of the movie, but it's not the type of music that will blow you (pun intended) out of your seat. I couldn't find any problems with interference on the soundtrack but I found the dialogue was a bit too quiet compared to the music and I had to adjust the volume a few times. With no major effects in a movie heavy on dialogue, there are no real problems but no real moments that show off the high definition audio either.
It's nice of Optimum to put together a bare-bones release—it makes reviewing the disc a lot quicker. I can think of no other reason why the extras from the standard DVD release have not been included here. Well, apart from video and audio configuration doodahs that may as well not be there.
This (un)erotic thriller is as sleazy as they come, but there is just about enough meat on the bones (pun intended) to keep you watching if you want more out of your viewing than Sharon Stone's flesh. Unfortunately this is another Blu-ray release that neither delivers on the video or audio quality and the lack of extras is just plain lazy.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page.
Review by Scott McKenzie
Suitable only for persons of 18 years and over
Release Date: 15th September 2008
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, DTS-HD High Resolution 5.1 French, DTS-HD High Resolution 5.1 German, DTS 2.0 Italian, DTS-HD High Resolution 5.1 Portuguese, DTS 2.0 Spanish
Subtitles: Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish
Easter Egg: No
Director: Paul Verhoeven
Cast: Michael Douglas, Sharon Stone
Length: 128 minutes
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