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Nick Curran (Michael Douglas) is a homicide cop struggling to keep his job and battling addictions to booze and cigarettes. Not only is he having a sexy fling with the therapist assigned to his case (Jeanne Tripplehorn), but he also gets involved with Catherine Tramell (Sharon Stone) a bisexual novelist who is the prime suspect in the grisly murder of Johnny Boz, her former rock star boyfriend who was skewered to death at the sharp end of an ice-pick. Catherine had written about such a murder in the plot to one of her pulp thrillers...and now Curran is the role model in a new book about a killer cop who just might have a fatal attraction to the wrong woman.

Review by Keith Lofthouse:
Paul Verhoeven once explained that his resilience to violence was due to the German occupation of The Netherlands during WW2 when his family witnessed atrocities at first hand. The Dutch-born director of Robocop, Total Recall and Hollow Man, concedes that he might now have problems judging "what is over the top and what is not" and here we have Verhoeven's perversely compelling but overtly vulgar and basically sleazy serial killer thriller as conclusive proof.

For starters (and be warned of the possible spoiler here) there is not one; not two, but maybe three multiple murderers...and all of them are lesbian. This was like waving a red rag at gay activists, who duly vented their rage by giving away the ending...not that anyone could make much sense of that. I still have my doubts as to the actual number (of killers) because the director doesn't seem to know either, for just as he seems to be mopping up the unmotivated mess that is Joe Eszterhas's record $3 million plot he tosses another red herring into the pot.

Verhoeven isn't content with just one grisly ice-picking, so he goes for two and piles on the gory details ("$1.65 from K Mart; 31 stab wounds"). In addition, the sex scenes are frenzied and gratuitous and shot with all the subtlety of a cold bedpan. The language is appalling: "Let me ask you something, Miss Tramell, are you sorry he's dead?" "Yeah," she says: "I liked fucking him."

None of these characters are nice, you see, and most bellow and screech; except for Catherine who is always in control, most often in the bedroom. She's a cool Cat, with claws, who knows what makes men bend and squirm; what makes their hearts race and their hormones get all over the place. And so, in that notorious scene in the police interrogation room, she opens up her legs so that you can see what she had for breakfast. Coarse? Crude? But that's why you men went to see the movie, right? And that's why you rented the video and bought the DVD. For the Special Features? There are none. So that you can drool over the freeze frame, and maybe the zoom?

Well, of course, we're only human and you, dear reader, are not the first or the last to be tempted. Hark back to 1954, when dear old Alfred was vilified for the voyeuristic aspects of Rear Window. He posed a simple question for his critics then: "If you glanced across the courtyard and saw someone undressing for bed, you'd watch wouldn't you?" Basic Instinct was all of 12 years before Janet Jackson outraged America by popping a boob at the Superbowl and so I have no problem with Sharon Stone flashing her private parts for all the world to see...no wonder Kim Basinger, Michelle Pfeiffer, Greta Scacchi and Mariel Hemingway turned it down. Curiously, Stone insists she "had no idea" Verhoeven was filming up her skirt during this scene (she claims she slapped his face when she first saw the rushes) but the director denies this. Well, someone's a little confused. We're all confused, in the end. I felt a little dirty, watching it.

Published: July 1, 2004

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(US, 1992)

CAST: Michael Douglas, Sharon Stone, Jeanne Tripplehorne

DIRECTOR: Paul Verhoeven

SCRIPT: Joe Eszterhas

RUNNING TIME: 128 minutes

PRESENTATION: 2.25:1 anamorphic widescreen (16:9 enhanced); audio DD 5.1



DVD RELEASE: June 23, 2004

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