It’s been 14 years since Sharon Stone played her most memorable role in Paul Verhoeven and Joe Eszterhas’ “Basic Instinct.” Since then, she’s earned a best-actress Oscar nomination (for “Casino”), appeared in dubious remakes (“Diabolique,” “Gloria”) and played with her image (“The Muse,” “Broken Flowers”), but she’s never topped the bisexual erotic charge she brought to the first “Instinct.”
Discussions of a sequel went on for years, and now it’s here — without Verhoeven, without Eszterhas, without the original San Francisco locations (the new setting is London) and without a marquee name to equal the original’s Michael Douglas. All that’s left from the original film are the late Jerry Goldsmith’s delightfully insinuating score (or pieces of it) and Stone, who creates a character so calculatedly insolent that she goes beyond caricature.
In just a couple of hours, Stone transforms Catherine Trammel, who had been the role of a lifetime, into a campy nightmare. The more she works at appearing sexy and irresistible, the more resistible she becomes. The movie itself is so laughable that it’s likely to place prominently in Entertainment Weekly’s next roundup of the all-time dumbest sequels.
Taking Douglas’ place is David Morrissey, an emotionally reticent Liverpool native who would probably be perfectly cast in “No Sex Please, We’re British.” Best-known for roles in the new Rolling Stones movie, “Stoned,” and last year’s flop thriller, “Derailed,” he achieves a kind of anti-chemistry with Stone. Yes, he’s playing a control freak, as Catherine keeps reminding him, but he’s almost a dictionary definition of “repressed.”
Morrissey plays Dr. Michael Glass, a criminal psychiatrist who is hired to evaluate Catherine, a best-selling crime novelist whose reckless driving appears to have caused the death of a celebrity athlete. He comes to the conclusion that she suffers from “risk addiction,” and that she’ll probably repeat her destructive behavior in the near future.
Naturally, despite all protestations about professional ethics, he becomes her therapist, and eventually he does what all movie therapists do: he sleeps with his patient. Like nearly everyone who has a run-in with Catherine, he’s spellbound, transfixed, incapable of acting in his own best interests. Meanwhile, the corpses are piling up.
The supporting cast is more familiar: David Thewlis as an unstable Scotland Yard detective and Charlotte Rampling as a psychiatrist who advises Michael to terminate his relationship with Catherine. Thewlis has some good moments early in the film, as he registers his determination to put Catherine behind bars, but the anything-goes finale sinks him. Rampling is similarly trapped in a role that doesn’t add up to much.
The director, Michael Caton-Jones (“Scandal”), seems helpless. He can’t even turn this lurid dreck into a guilty pleasure. The script by Leora Barish and Harry Bean is the kind of whodunit that welcomes any and all resolutions. You think Catherine is a serial killer? Fine. You think Michael is the guilty party? Also fine. It doesn’t really matter. Since neither registers as a recognizable human being, who cares anyway?