Sunday, March 6, 2011

Worst of the Worst: #89, Basic Instinct 2

And so we reach the 3/4 pole of this now fifteen-month race to watch Rotten Tomatoes' hundred worst movies of the "Aughts" with a pretty infamously bad movie. The movie was a flop of epic proportions. The original Basic Instinct cost $40 million to make and brought in $117 million at the box office, to go with countless video tape viewings (including the single most paused moment in movie history). The sequel cost $70 million and made $5 million. I didn't leave a number out there. Why did it bomb so badly? Fourteen years had passed, meaning people didn't care so much about the "franchise" and Sharon Stone was perceived as maybe a little old to be playing Catherine Tramell again; Stone had fallen off the map a bit, having had not a really big box office kind of role since the not-so-good Sphere eight years earlier; word of mouth from the critics was abysmal. An infamously bad movie, which is why what I'm about to say may come as a surprise.

With two exceptions, Basic Instinct 2 is a perfectly average movie.

The plot deals with one of London's leading psychiatrists who is called in to do a forensic evaluation of Ms. Tramell after her boyfriend is killed in a car accident while she was driving. A cop, knowing that she had a history of writing about murders that somehow happen, is out to get her and tries to get the psychiatrist to convince the court that she is a danger to herself and others. While the interview goes on, the femme fatale uses her sexed-up manipulation on him and he begins to be obsessed with her. When she is freed on a technicality, he fantasizes about her and follows her around and then the people close to him start turning up dead. Mystery, sex, twist, blah blah blah. Your average Cinemax movie. Maybe one scene of really graphic sex and a few other semi-graphic ones, plus a little blood. David Morrissey's performance as the shrink isn't too bad. David Thewlis as the cop is mostly quite good (not a surprise, since he's pretty good as Lupin in the Harry Potter films). Bad, boring, uninventive plot. Just average.

The first exception to this is the dialogue. It is not good. One of the first lines is when Tramell's boyfriend is in the car at the beginning and drugged up. He says, "I can't move." She replies, "You don't have to. You're in a car." Plenty of other lines that are as intellectually stimulating. The movie also attempts to set a Guiness world record for most times the word "come" (in various spellings, I'm sure) is spoken in a movie. It's not suggestive. It's just overused. The script gets so bad that the movie is funny at times. That's not so bad, I guess, in so boring a film. Add to that some unintentional comedy in the overdramatic acting job that Thewlis does in his death scene and, while bad, the dialogue is sort of entertaining. Which means it can only be the second exception that makes the movie truly awful.

That second exception is the acting job turned in by Sharon Stone. In watching these bad movies, the two worst acting jobs I've seen by a well-known actor have been from Chris Klein (his laugh-out-loud performance in Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li) and John Travolta (from Battlefield Earth, of course). Add Stone to the list as the worst actress so far. It's not how she tries to look much younger than she is, including a shot of her really, really (I could keep going there) bad boob job. It's about how she delivers her lines. She's supposed to be sexy but cold, sarcastic but enticing. Instead, she speaks every word as if she's reading them for the first time and she can barely read. She's saying things for shock value, but they are so unbelievable that you have to roll your eyes. It's not so bad that it's funny. It's so bad that you want her to get off screen as quickly as possible. We're talking about an Academy Award-nominated actress, maybe the biggest sex symbol of the '90s, and I cringed every time she opened her mouth. She's not the first actor to ruin a (barely) legacy. She's not even the first actor from Casino, since Pesci and De Niro have been making stinker after stinker for a while now. I guess it's sad that she ended up in a movie that sat on a shelf for six years and was embroiled in lawsuits before being made, a movie that doesn't even really have anything to do with the first one other than a scene where Tramell looks at an icepick. Maybe we -- or at least those very, very few of us who saw this movie -- should remember her for Casino or Total Recall, but it can only be so sad because she brought this on herself. A good performance from her would not have saved this movie, but it would have saved it from being near-unwatchable.

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