Basically, it stinks 

Skip base "Instinct 2’; see ‘Inside Man,’ ‘CSA’ instead.

click to enlarge STONE: Wooden.
  • STONE: Wooden.

Everywhere in the universe outside Hollywood, there is something to be said for growing old gracefully: proud of your laugh lines, gray hairs and morning stiffness. It shows you’ve survived.

The best proof of that wise kind of thinking is on display this week, when “Basic Instinct 2” opens in theaters. A goofy, plodding pachyderm of a thriller — a retread of just the brand of soft-core 1980s baloney that made us hate movies like this even when they were popular — its only redeeming quality might be the myriad opportunities to shout quips back at the screen during lulls in the horrendous dialogue. Beyond that, it could as well have been called “Does She Still Got It?” — the “she” in question being a Sharon Stone so thoroughly nipped, tucked and air-brushed that she looks like one of those life-sized silicone love dolls that Japanese perverts pay a year’s salary for.

Here, Stone reprises her role as sociopathic crime novelist Catherine Tramell. The film opens with Tramell speeding through the streets of London in her zippy Italian coupe, a pro soccer player at her side and his hand seemingly somewhere — well, let’s not be vulgar. One thing leads to another, the car ends up in the river (haven’t we all been there a time or three?), and it’s scratch one zippy Italian car and one thick-necked footballer.

At the inquest, Tramell is referred to a shrink, Dr. Michael Glass (David Morrissey) for an evaluation. When she beats the rap, over the ob-jections of a vindictive cop (David Thelis) she comes slinking after Glass, eventually drawing him into a web of kinky sex, deceit, lies and murder.

While it is being sold as some kind of psychosexual thriller, “Basic Instinct 2” is one of those films that makes you want to take a shower when it’s all done — not to mention just the kind of movie that makes me wish Joe Eszterhas’ mother had left a few more dry cleaner bags lying around when he was a kid. Stone is as oaken as her Botox-ed brow, and Morrissey isn’t much better, serving only as the clueless dupe in a scheme that would have been as easy to foil as hanging up the phone, losing Tramell’s number, and hitting her over the head with a stick every time she came smirking around, flashing her crotch.

In short: overblown, oversexed, overboiled, overwrought. The nearly-50-something Stone should stop trying to convince us she’s still got it on the outside and let us see what she’s got on the inside. We’ll all be happier in the long run.

It’s good time to be a fan of the caper movie, which has always been one of our favorite genres. This is the era of “The Sopranos,” mind you. The anti-hero has skulked to the forefront, and when it comes to a heist flick, more often than not the audience will be cheering for the criminal quicker than for the cops out to catch him.

A smart new entry into the caper genre is the Spike Lee/Denzel Washington vehicle “Inside Man.” Clever, surprising — though overlong, and with a few too many unnecessary red herrings — it’s a good time at the movies, and further proof that Washington is one of the best things going in American film.

Washington plays NYPD detective Keith Frazier. Embroiled in a scandal over missing money from a bust, Frazier is riding a desk one sleepy af-ternoon when he gets a call that a bank in the financial district is being robbed. The robber turns out to be Dalton Russell (Clive Owen), a criminal genius who — along with three accomplices — manages to take down the place in broad daylight, holding more than 50 hostages inside. In short order, Frazier is on the scene, trying to redeem himself in the eyes of superiors and bring the situation to a peaceful close. Soon, however, a frosty public relations guru (Jodie Foster) and the bank president (Christopher Plummer) get involved, pulling in favors with city higher-ups to insinuate themselves into the negotiations with the robbers.

While “Inside Man” seemed a little too willing to indulge the screenwriter’s wild tangentS — one major sidetrack of the film turns out to have no part whatsoever in the robbing of the bank, though we were purposefully led to believe otherwise during the first reel — it is still a brainy and satisfying thriller. Washington is at the top of his form here, trying to keep the SWAT team from turning things into a bloodbath while simultaneously working behind the scenes to make sure things turn out the best for him career-wise. Director Lee even gets with the ac-tion-movie program, with a quick-cutting style that lends a speed and breathlessness to the proceedings.

While “Inside Man” might not be the perfect caper film, it has characters with a real heft to them and a plot that zings when it should, and it’s definitely worth the price of a ticket.

Though most Northern folks might believe that we Southerners sit down here crying into our moonshine and kicking the dog every time we think about what might have been had the South won the Civil War, the truth is, most modern Southlanders we know don’t think about it much. There are, however, exceptions.

One person who has obviously given a lot of thought to the topic is writer/director Kevin Willmott. His new mockumentary, “CSA: The Confederate States of America,” now playing at Market Street Cinema, posits what might have happened to America had the British and French jumped in on the side of Dixie and routed the armies of the Union.

While it turns out to be a really scary picture, Willmott gives the idea its share of very dark yuks. Seeded throughout what purports to be a BBC documentary on the history of the Confederacy are a number of “Saturday Night Live”-style fake commercials for services, like a hotline to report friends and neighbors who the caller suggests might be breaking the law by passing for white (1-800-PASSING).

A good part of the “documentary,” meanwhile, is the story of the Fauntroy family — a kind of Southern Kennedy clan that arises from the Civil War after the industrial cities of the North have been reduced to rubble. Under their near-dynastic leadership, American history takes a very different track, including the exile of Abraham Lincoln, the execution and imprisonment of black civil rights leaders, and collusion with Nazi Germany — up to and including the creation of a Jewish “reservation”on Long Island.

While “CSA” was clever, it was a bit on-the-nose for my taste, especially when it came time to turn the historical tables on some of his-tory’s most momentous events. What I’m saying is, it could have been smarter, less obvious, more subtle. Still, it is an interesting little film, one not afraid to poke fun at some of our country’s biggest racial and historical taboos. 



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