(This review contains some spoilers, but I made sure I didn't give
away the ending.)
Basic Instinct is a high budget, sex and drugs fuelled thriller in
the vein of a good Hitchcock film. It starts off with a beautiful
woman having sex with a rock and roll star, stabbing him to death
as she reaches orgasm. The ensuing story is about three things.
Firstly, it's about whether the prime suspect actually is the killer
or not. In this respect, it's quite similar to Paul Verhoeven's
previous film, Total Recall, in which it's equally possible that the
protagonist's adventure is real or that it's an artificially induced
Secondly, it's about whether she'll get away with it or not. As a
psychologist and an author, she knows how to craft a lie and how to
manipulate people, two skills she uses to her full advantage.
Thirdly, it's about whether she'll then kill the detective investigating
Despite often being too explicit to be erotic (let's face it, sex
itself just isn't that sexy), I still think Basic Instinct is a
gripping story. The suspect appears to be evil. The detective is
clearly naive. It's fascinating to see her push him ever deeper
into despair, and to see him willingly go along with her mind games
because he's smitten with her and he thinks he can win them.
Enough people have read into the film as social commentary, or even
part of the social problem, as the suspect's ability to manipulate
men comes from her flaunting her sexual desirability. However, this
seems to me like a reasonable enough way of controlling others if
you happen to be both attractive and a psychopath. Bear in mind
that the screenplay was written by a man for other men to enjoy -
this is Hollywood in the nineties, after all. Don't expect miracles
of political correctness for the era.
Apparently some people were upset that the suspect appeared to be
both bisexual and a serial killer, as if a connection was implied,
but I for one thought Sharon Stone portrayed the character well.
The rock and roll star she liked to fuck dies at the start of the
story, and when the detectives tell her how he was killed, she doesn't
so much as bat an eyelid. In sharp contrast, when her lover Roxy
dies, she shows true sorrow, if not responsibility. She clearly
enjoys playing mind games with men, but only loves another woman.
In a reversal of pretend lesbianism for the benefit of a straight
man watching the women in question, the suspect seems to be closer
to faking an enjoyment of straight sex in order to make her girlfriend
jealous, in a way that eventually backfires. To her, men are mere
playthings to be easily discarded, while her girlfriend is someone
she feels deeply for.
At the end of the day, however, to read even this much into the film
is to miss the point. It's emotionally engaging because you can see
exactly what the suspect is doing, assuming she is the killer, and
you wonder if she'll be able to pull it off or not. Such a suspenseful
film is very entertaining, and that's all a film is meant to be:
I enjoyed this film as a tale of tragic descent. It has a fair
amount of sex and violence, as you might expect considering the plot,
and as long as you don't mind that, it's a gripping psychological