Basic Instinct (1992)

It’s very hard to figure out whether “Basic Instinct” is a big-budget B-movie with retrograde attitudes towards women’s sexuality, or a quasi-meta parody of one. Either way, Paul Verhoeven’s famously sleazy blockbuster is unlike anything else, and for that reason alone it’s worth a watch for cinema fans. Sharon Stone’s star-making performance is just as captivating today as it was upon original release: It’s like Stone is playing Catherine Tramell as Madonna, and it’s hard to ever take her character seriously because she only exists as a manifestation of screenwriter Joe Eszterhas’ insecurities about women. Speaking of the screenplay, it’s one of the laziest around, treating the titillation of sexuality with all the maturity of a giggling adolescent, but Verhoeven makes the whole thing interesting by doubling down on the screenplay’s trashy excesses, and the finished product is an often-shockingly graphic, charismatically acted potboiler that proudly wears its artifice on its sleeve.

Rating: ★★★★ (out of 5)

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