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Friday, March 31, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Movie Review

"Basic Instinct 2": No panty lines, but no excitement, either

Seattle Times movie critic

The opening moments of "Basic Instinct 2" quickly answer the only real question this sequel might raise: Fourteen years after the events of the first film, slinky crime novelist Catherine Tramell (Sharon Stone) is, apparently, still not wearing underwear.

That we learn this a tad more discreetly than we did in "Basic Instinct" (it's an implication, as opposed to a full-on flashing) isn't evidence of the franchise getting more tasteful. In fact, the only tasteful thing in the movie is Catherine's elegant London apartment, where she lounges around bralessly plotting how best to mess with the heads of everyone around her.

Movie review 1 stars


Showtimes and trailer

"Basic Instinct 2," with Sharon Stone, David Morrissey, David Thewlis, Charlotte Rampling, Hugh Dancy. Directed by Michael Caton-Jones, from a screenplay by Leora Barish and Henry Bean. 113 minutes. Rated R for strong sexuality, nudity, violence, language and some drug content. Several theaters.

And despite all the heavy breathing and mood lighting, "Basic Instinct 2" is so dull that you might find yourself easily distracted by side issues. How much money, say, might one save by not purchasing any underwear for 14 years? Does the unfortunate character introduced as Dicky Pap have a secret identity as a porn-star gynecologist? Are halter-neck, cut-to-the-navel jumpsuits what all the novelists are wearing in London these days? (Somebody check with J.K. Rowling.) And does poor David Morrissey look so distressed because he's only just read the screenplay?

Morrissey has the thankless role of a psychiatrist brought in by Scotland Yard to profile Catherine after she is implicated in the death of a sports star. You feel for the man; with his tidily combed hair and apologetic presence, he's no match when Catherine starts straddling chairs and eyeing him like a cat on the verge of having her way with a canary. (This character does seem part feline; she's always dramatically licking her lips after kissing somebody, while miraculously keeping her lip gloss intact.) And of course the poor fellow gets caught up in her web, as the dead bodies start to pile up in various dimly lit London locations.

Except for a brief scene in which Catherine meaningfully fondles an ice pick (in preparation for breaking up a block of ice, hee hee), there's little plot continuity here from the previous film. (After the controversy about the murderous character's lesbianism in "Basic Instinct," that entire angle has been more or less dropped, though there appears to be some sort of spark between Catherine and Milena Gardosh, a psychiatrist played by a slumming Charlotte Rampling. Run, Milena! Run!) The screenplay, by Leora Barish and Henry Bean, is strictly by-the-numbers, and Michael Caton-Jones directs with all the subtlety of a late-night cable movie.

Stone — who, it must be said, looks terrific — throws herself into the role, sneering and curling her lip and squirming in her chair as if she just sat in something. It's not exactly a nuanced performance, but she's certainly having a swell time. Too bad that can't be said for the rest of us.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

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