Basic Instinct

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

When rock star Johnny Boz (Bill Cable) is viciously stabbed to death with an ice pick during sex by a mysterious blonde woman, homicide detective Nick Curran (Michael Douglas) is sent to investigate. The only suspect is Catherine Tramell (Sharon Stone), a crime novelist who was the last person to be seen with Boz on the night he died. Nick and his partner, Gus Moran (George Dzundza), visit her Pacific Heights mansion, but they find only Catherine’s lesbian lover, Roxy (Leilani Sarelle), who sends them to Catherine’s Stinson Beach house. When they ask Catherine about her relationship with Boz, she shows little emotion at hearing he is dead. Nick and Gus, along with their superiors, discover that Catherine has written a novel about a former rock star who was killed in the same way as Boz (stabbed in bed with an ice pick, hands tied together with a silk scarf). During questioning by detectives, including Nick, at police headquarters, Catherine engages in provocative behavior, refuses to extinguish her cigarette, and re-crosses her legs — her short skirt revealing that she is not wearing underwear.

Nick, who accidentally shot two tourists while high on cocaine, attends counseling sessions with police psychologist Dr. Beth Garner (Jeanne Tripplehorn), with whom he has had an affair. Nick goes to a bar with co-workers after the interrogation and is taunted by Lieutenant Marty Nilsen (Daniel von Bargen), an internal affairs investigator bent on making life difficult for Nick. Beth arrives and Nick leaves with her. They go to her apartment, where aggressive foreplay escalates into rape. Nick learns that Catherine has a troubled history: Her parents were killed in a boating accident when she was an adolescent, leaving her a fortune; one of her college counselors, Noah Goldstein, was stabbed in his sleep with an ice pick when Catherine was attending UC Berkeley, and her former fiancé, boxer Manny Vasquez, was killed in the ring during a prize fight in Atlantic City. He also discovers that Catherine makes a habit of befriending murderers, including Hazel Dobkins, a woman who stabbed her husband and children for no apparent reason.

During a visit to her house Catherine taunts Nick with information that should be confidential. As a police psychologist Beth is the only person with access to that information. Nick confronts Beth and she admits that she handed his file to Nilsen, who threatened to discharge Nick if he could not evaluate him directly. An enraged Nick storms into Nilsen’s office, assaults him, and accuses him of having sold Nick’s file to Catherine. Nilsen then suspends Nick, who goes home and spends the evening drinking. Beth visits him but he throws her out after a heated argument. Nilsen is found dead in his car later that night, shot once in the head with a .38 caliber revolver. Nick is the prime suspect because of their recent altercation.

A torrid affair between Nick and Catherine begins with the air of a cat-and-mouse game. Catherine explains that she will base her next novel’s character — a cop falling for the wrong woman only to be killed by her — on Nick, while at the same time he declares his love for her and his unchanged intention to nail her for Boz’s murder.

A jealous Roxy tries to run Nick over with Catherine’s car but is killed in a crash during a car chase. Her death reveals that she too has a murderous past — she killed her two brothers with a razor when she was a teenager (because juvenile arrests are sealed until the individual’s death, this record did not turn up earlier). Catherine seems genuinely saddened by Roxy’s death and Nick begins to doubt her guilt. Catherine later reveals that a previous lesbian encounter at college went awry when the girl, Lisa Hoberman, became obsessed with her. Nick identifies the girl as Beth Garner, who acknowledges the encounter but claims it was Catherine who became obsessed. It is also discovered that Beth’s husband was killed in an unsolved drive-by shooting, shot with a .38 caliber revolver.

Nick visits Catherine’s house. Before Catherine comes into the room he sees on a printer the final pages of Catherine’s new detective book. He quickly reads a few lines, in which the fictional detective finds his partner lying dead with his legs protruding from the doors of an elevator. Catherine comes in and explains that she has finished her book, and coldly ends the affair. Upset, Nick meets Gus, who has arranged to meet with Catherine’s college roommate at a hotel to find out what really went on between Catherine and Beth. As Nick waits in the car, Gus enters the hotel elevator. As he exits the elevator a hooded figure jumps out and stabs him multiple times in the neck with an ice pick. Nick figures out there is trouble brewing and runs into the building, but he arrives too late to save Gus and finds him lying dead with his legs protruding from the doors of the elevator. Hearing the floor creak, Nick grabs Gus’ gun and turns to find Beth standing in the hallway, explaining she received a message to meet Gus there. Nick suspects that she murdered Gus and, as Beth moves her hand in her pocket, he shoots her. Beth tells Nick with her final breath that she loved him. A dejected Nick checks her pocket, to find only her keys. The police arrive, and in a staircase discover a blond wig, an SFPD raincoat, and an ice pick, the weapon used to murder Gus, concluding that Beth ditched the items when she heard Nick coming up. A search of Beth’s apartment turns up the evidence needed to brand her as the killer of Boz, Gus, Nilsen, and presumably her own husband—the matching revolver, Catherine’s novels, and photos chronicling the writer’s life. At police headquarters, all the other detectives quickly piece together the story and conclude that Beth was the killer. Nick sits on his desk, confused and dejected, knowing based on Catherine’s foreknowledge of the manner of Gus’ death that she must actually have been the killer and that she must have set Beth up.

Nick returns to his apartment where he is met by Catherine, knowing she’s the killer. She explains her reluctance to commit to him, but then the two make love. Afterward, the conversation turns toward their possible future as a couple. Nick looks wary of her. While talking Nick turns his back on Catherine as she slowly reaches for something underneath the bed. He suggests their future will comprise sex and children. Catherine says she hates children and Nick then suggests their future will then just involve sex. At this Catherine stops reaching for something under the bed and she throws her arms around Nick, convincing him, and the two resume making love as the camera slowly pans down to show what she was reaching for under the bed: an ice pick


Back in 1992, when Basic Instinct was released, there was tons of controversy surrounding its copious amounts of sex and nudity as well as the subject matter. By today’s standards though, this is quite tame. What a difference 20 yrs makes, right?

What is this about?

Facing internal inquiry, Det. Curran doggedly pursues a case involving Catherine, a writer and temptress who is suspected in a murder reminiscent of a crime detailed in her book. As the body count rises, so does Curran’s obsession with Catherine.

What did I like?

Whodunit? In a throwback to classic thrillers of yesteryear, or maybe just good thrillers, this film takes us in a multitude of directions as we seek out the killer. It can’t always be the person you most expect, I will leave it at that. The way the filmmakers foreshadow her, though, was quite impressive. Not to give too much away, but in an early scene the eventual killer says something along the lines of if she was the killer she would say she wouldn’t just to throw everyone off. Brilliant…bloody brilliant!

Sex sells. I was in high school when this was released, so you can imagine that all I wanted to see back then was boobs and a bit of sex. Some things never change, but now I have an appreciation for the art of these nude scenes that populate the film. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you want to watch some deep dramatic thriller. If that was the case, then you wouldn’t be watching this particular film. You’re here for the skin…admit it!!!

Stone cold fox. Sharon Stone doesn’t give her best performance, but it is way better than some of the later things we’ve been catching her in lately. Stone has the chops, face, and body to carry this film, despite a rather unimpressive script. She does so with such class that it is no wonder that she went on to bigger things. That little chair scene helped a bit, too, I’m sure.

What didn’t I like?

Motive and murder. Always in murder cases, the motive is the #1 thing they try to find out. For some reason, it seemed as if motive didn’t matter to these cops, though, as finding the motive was a second thought. Perhaps they were distracted by Stone, but I doubt it.

Internal. I’m not quite sure I understood what the whole angle with getting Michael Douglas’ character suspended, or whatever the term they used was. When we first meet all these cops, they seem to get along, then in a scene a few minutes later, animosity rears its head, and spirals for the rest of the film. I can’t say that it worked for me. I believe they could have done something more with it, or at the very least, done a better job of writing with that part of the plot.

Daddy would not be proud. Michael Douglas is quite the accomplished, competent actor, but this is not his greatest work. Ironically, it may be one of the pieces on his resume that he is best known for. I won’t say that he is sleepwalking through this film, because he isn’t, but there are times when it is quite obvious he feels as if he could be somewhere else. I wish I could give the guy a pass on this, but I can’t as I’ve seen him do so much better with far less.

Basic Instinct is one of those films that is a must-see because of it impact on culture at the time. As far as being a must-see film based on its own merit, I’m not so sure it warrants the same response. It is good in that respect, but not great. Keep in mind, this is the brilliant mind that brought us Showgirls a few years following this, so it is obvious where his mind lay. Do I recommend this? Sure. It isn’t going to hurt to watch Sharon Stone writhing around a bunch of men. Check it out sometime!

4 out of 5 stars


2 Responses to “Basic Instinct”

  1. […] kind of porn, but be warned!!! There is plenty of sex to go around, about as much as you saw in Basic Instinct, give or take a couple of scenes, but the tone is total […]

  2. […] housewives, whores, eye candy, and/or some kind of sidekick. Stone, who was still riding high from Basic Instinct 3 or 4 years earlier, would have been perfect for a more feminine part, but she took a chance as a […]

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