'Basic Instinct 2'

Remember the scandalous arrival of "Basic Instinct," back in 1992?

This was the movie where director Paul Verhoeven and writer Joe Eszterhas gleefully indulged their obscene fantasies of graphic sex, extreme violence and copious drug use, with a flashy, flashing Sharon Stone as their ice-queen poster girl for transgressive fun, and Michael Douglas as her mostly willing accomplice. It was expensive, it was trashy, and it was ludicrous. And those were its good points.

"Basic Instinct 2" is ludicrous, as well, but it isn't ludicrous enough. Screenwriters Leora Barish and Henry Bean and director Michael Caton-Jones don't have it in them to descend to the original's lurid, garish depth; that sense of sleazy, fever-dream insanity is entirely absent. Instead, "Basic Instinct 2" is ... respectable. Or it would be, if it didn't suck.

The plot is a sloppy reprise of the first film's, relocated to London and focusing on a psychologist (David Morrissey) who's assigned to evaluate Sharon Stone's wily crime novelist Catherine Trammell after she crashes a car into the Thames, killing a footballer. His diagnosis: "Risk addiction," a condition that drives her to take greater and greater risks in order to feel that her existence is validated, or something.

Apparently, orchestrating the deaths of half the characters in first "Basic Instinct," and then writing a best-selling book about it, wasn't enough; 14 years later, she's just as predatory and manipulative as ever -- just as quick to light up a cigarette in a no-smoking zone, which is probably what got her driven her out of California in the first place.

In fact, she's exactly the same, repeating the pattern of behavior that ensnared Douglas in the first movie. Fortunately, Morrissey's character is practically a rewritten version of Douglas, with the same dark secret in his past, the same touchy relationship with an ex, the same cop buddy who constantly warns him about getting too close to the creepy murder suspect.

It's all so conveniently similar that one gets the feeling, about an hour into this basically boring movie, that Catherine has the potential to be one of the great franchise characters, like Pinhead from the "Hellraiser" movies or that annoying leprechaun. She could turn up anywhere, at any point in time, to wreak havoc on some poor sap, and then move on, unbothered, to the next challenge. Now, that would be a franchise worth following.

Sony's DVD strategy for "Basic Instinct 2" is simple enough: The R-rated theatrical version arrives in a full-frame edition, while the unrated director's cut gets the spiffy enhanced-widescreen presentation, along with some exclusive extra features. Strangely, the cover art for both discs is identical, so be sure to check the banner at the top of the package to make sure you've picked up the one you want; stranger still, only the R-rated version is being made available on Sony's high-definition Blu-Ray format. (At least that one's widescreen.)

Supplements common to both discs are a fascinatingly wrong-headed audio commentary by Caton-Jones, in which he acknowledges even he doesn't know how the plot works out, and a rather ordinary making-of featurette; the unrated disc also throws in 10 deleted scenes -- including a ridiculous "wet" seduction sequence and an alternate ending that barely differs from the one used in the finished film -- with optional commentary from the director.

STUDIO: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
RELEASE DATE: July 11, 2006
RATING: R/unrated
PRICE: $26.98
TIME: 114 minutes (R)/116 minutes (unrated)
DVD EXTRAS: French audio dub; English and French subtitles; audio commentary; production featurette. Unrated edition includes deleted scenes.
INTERNET SITE: www.basicinstinct2movie.com