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Basic Instinct (1992)

Forget all the controversy and ballyhooing: Basic Instinct is, in the words of the late, great Bill Hicks, a piece of shit. Rigidly and unimaginatively conforming to the archetype standards of the thriller genre, Verhoeven tries to add some unique flair by masquerading the whole things as a titillating piece of porn, and unsuccessfully at that. Michael Douglas is Nick Curran, a cop with a checkered past who can’t resist the opportunity to again go in over his head, this time when sexy novelist Catherine Tramell (Sharon Stone) is suspected of killing her boyfriend in the same manner as is described in a book she wrote years ago (two words: ice pick). Much bare skin and fucking ensues, but for all the tension and sense of danger the film tries to instill, its X-rated elements (trimmed down repeatedly to earn the necessary R rating, thus denying its viewers the prurient elements they crave, substituting them with a case of blue balls) are particularly sterile and tame (yes, even the infamous “crotch” shot). Sharon Stone is the only cast member who seems to recognize the impossibly cheesy overtones to the script, playing up her ice queen role as if it were the wet dream manifestation of itself. Everyone else, filmmakers included, fail to play with or subvert the clichés they’re adhering to – they just turn up the volume. Nothing in the film, however, is more enraging than the final shot: a half-assed fade to black segment bisects the scene so as to allow for easy editing, depending on which way test audiences prefer the film to conclude. Trash like this needs a healthy dose of self-awareness.