- Michael Douglas as Detective Nick Curran
- Sharon Stone as Catherine Tramell
- George Dzundza as Detective Gus Moran
- Jeanne Tripplehorn as Dr. Beth Garner
Unashamedly in your face in terms of sex and violence, Basic Instinct is probably just remembered for that. But there is a lot more to it than just that, there’s a twisting mystery at the heart of it that compliments the lack of subtlety. Twin that with a sexy breakthrough role from Sharon Stone and Basic Instinct is an engrossing erotic thriller that isn’t afraid to shock or reel you in.
Basic Instinct begins with a retired rock star being brutally murdered with an ice pick by a blonde woman(whose face is obscured) during heavy sex. San Francisco Detective Nick Curran is charged with investigating the gruesome homicide. The main suspect in the case is the beautiful bisexual author Catherine Tramell, who seems to have written a book that mirrors the crime committed. Yet Catherine is not about to confess to anything as she knows how to play significant games with those around her, starting with Nick. Although he may try to distance himself from the gorgeous but potentially lethal Catherine, he can’t help but be drawn in by her siren call. Soon enough, he has entered a torrid affair with Catherine in which she takes almost complete charge. Nick himself has his own demons to contend with as his past of drink and booze is still being watched over by Internal Affairs. As more murders are committed and more mystery becomes known, can Nick really afford to be pursuing the icy Catherine? Is this seductive woman really someone who could kill another? Or is someone setting her up out of spite? Whatever the case, it’s not going to be the easiest for Nick to figure out as the relationship with Catherine intensifies.
Paul Verhoeven displays an I don’t give a damn feeling to his direction that allows the erotic and often surprising parts of the story to be seen in full lurid glory. Yet for all the excess, he knows how to keep the mystery angle of the film ticking over with aplomb. Verhoeven brings a European sensibility to Basic Instinct, which is no doubt what made it so controversial on release because of the open attitude to sex and graphic violence. The script, while ludicrous in many ways, excellently combines a perverse game of sexual cat and mouse with a murder mystery that does have you wanting to know more. The characters are a pretty despicable bunch, yet this helps Basic Instinct as no one is above sleazy tactics or potentially fatal behaviour. The sexuality aspect of the film is very present throughout a lot of the exercise and much of it is pretty jaw-dropping. Everyone of course remembers the interrogation scene where Catherine deliciously toys with a room full of officers by revealing that she isn’t wearing any underwear. The same can be said of the sex scenes which are carnal to say the least and not exactly being prudish. Yet to just remember these parts of the film makes people forget that beneath the somewhat trashy surface, a twisting thriller is taking hold in a stylish manner very much like the main female character. That’s what makes Basic Instinct so deceptive, you think it is just something of a skin flick but in actual fact a dark tale is unraveling. The moody and sultry cinematography and an absolutely exceptional score from Jerry Goldsmith going a long way in presenting a tantalizing mystery with erotic frisson.
Michael Douglas stars as the troubled Nick, whose life becomes more tangled once he’s become besotted by the alluring Catherine. It helps that the character isn’t just some innocent, wide-eyed cop. Instead he’s something of a louse with a short temper. Douglas knows to how to play this kind of part by imbuing some desperation in there as Nick starts to think with another part of his anatomy other than his head. Yet the person you will most remember from Basic Instinct is of course Sharon Stone. As the icy, cool and predatory Catherine, Stone has a ball showing the character’s razor-sharp intellect and devastating sensuality. Sex is Catherine’s biggest weapon through the story, yet is this smart woman really capable of murder? It would appear that she has the intelligence for it, but Stone gleefully makes Catherine a slinky femme fatale whose motives and actions are never clear but whose game playing is deliciously executed on the men around her. It’s a star making role that catapulted Sharon Stone to stardom and what a role it is. Aggressively sexy yet coolly collected, Catherine Tramell emerges as a femme fatale of the highest order. In the part of the only redeemable character of Nick’s detective partner, George Dzundza has the appropriate wise-cracking personality for it and brings some comic relief. Excellently rounding out the cast is Jeanne Tripplehorn as the psychologist who has a relationship that isn’t exactly professional with patient Nick.
An often shocking yet engaging thriller coloured with twisted sexuality and a good few red herrings, Basic Instinct is a film that delivers a lot more than just sex and violence. Beneath that the film is a cracking thriller in the best overheated way.