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Nick Curran is a tough but vulnerable detective investigating the brutal murder of a former rock star and nightclub owner. The prime suspect is the victim’s girlfriend, Catherine Tramell. Catherine is beautiful; but she's a cold, calculating psychologist with an insatiable sexual appetite. She has recently written a novel that describes the exact crime. Obsessed with cracking the case, Nick descends into San Francisco’s forbidden underground where suspicions mount, bodies fall, and he finds within himself an instinct more basic than survival.
For more about Basic Instinct and the Basic Instinct Blu-ray release, see Basic Instinct Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on August 30, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Michael Douglas, Sharon Stone, George Dzundza, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Denis Arndt, Chelcie Ross
Director: Paul Verhoeven (I)
» See full cast & crew
Basic Instinct Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, August 30, 2008
Sixteen years after its premiere Dutch director Paul Verhoeven's Basic Instinct (1992) has evolved into what can only be described as "classic". Raw, provocative, sexy, masterfully shot, and impeccably well-acted, this ( for some) highly disturbing yet wickedly entertaining film combines everything we crave when we want to be entertained. And more.
An ice-pick murderer is roaming the streets of San Francisco. Detective Nick Curran (Michael Douglas) and his partner Gus Moran (George Dzundza) are asked to visit the home of the stunningly beautiful Catherine Tramell (Sharon Stone) whose dead boyfriend is the killer's latest victim. After an edgy introduction Catherine begins to provoke Nick and the two soon find each other entangled in a complex web of sex, alcohol, and drugs.
Nick falls hard for Catherine. While she is questioned by the police the detective finds himself more and more attracted to Catherine. Her kinky habits only add up to the challenge. In the meantime Catherine also becomes the prime suspect in an investigation Nick is unsure how to direct. Her lesbian lover (Leilani Sarelle) also joins the show. Nick is confused. He does not know whether or not to believe Catherine. Is she the killer?
Basic Instinct is a classic whodunit story. What makes it different, however, from most everything else we've seen produced by Hollywood is the brash use of sex. Relying on the acting talents of two top-notch actors Paul Verhoeven has added plenty of depth to a script that filmed in any other way but the one seen here would have amounted to a serious disappointment. Fortunately, the dark and stylish execution is more than enough to turn the viewer's attention away from a few rather noticeably plot-holes.
The lingo, colorful and deemed inappropriate for mainstream TV, is on par with the film's edgy style. The main protagonists converse in a manner that very much mirrors their twisted actions. Not surprisingly, when Sharon Stone begins to toy with Michael Douglas her words throw the audience in a sea of doubt and uncertainty. Instead of learning more about Catherine the more she speaks the less the audience feels comfortable predicting her next move. Thus, Basic Instinct evolves into a guessing enigma that literally remains unsolved until the very last scene.
Despite of its explicit tone, however, Basic Instinct never ever once feels vile or insulting. Which was precisely what a number of moralistic watchdogs and outspoken feminist leaders attempted to prove some years ago. The passionate debates the film spurred where leading critics also attacked its portrayal of homosexuals as yet another example that Hollywood is nothing but a biased profiler are so off the mark that all one needs to do is look where contemporary cinema has gone to realize how ludicrous these calls were. Suffice to say, I cannot name a single similarly themed, yet "politically correct", picture that has generated the same kind of admiration from film buffs after Basic Instinct premiered.
I would also like to spare a few words for the skeptics out there who have questioned the film's plot and its ability to overcome a few obvious weaknesses. Yes, with current advancements in forensic studies the mystery behind Basic Instinct would have been solved rather quickly. It is difficult to argue otherwise. What I wish to clarify, however, is that Basic Instinct isn't a mystery story only. It is also a character study which more or less draws heavy inspiration from classic noir cinema where logic isn't necessarily used as a foundation for a successful, and in this case wickedly entertaining, story.
Technically, Basic Instinct shines with a strong and eye-popping cinematography where beautiful vistas from San Francisco are coupled with subdued intimate scenes feeding the story's sense of suspense. Indeed, Jan de Bont's contribution here is integral to the manner in which the story resonates with the audience. Furthermore, the film's construction, a carefully designed mosaic of misleading bits of "evidence", is equally rewarding as it sustains the guessing mode introduced in the opening scenes until the very end. Finally, the soundtrack by Hollywood legend Jerry Goldsmith adds a nice touch to an already exquisitely stylish picture.
Basic Instinct Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1, encoded in MPEG-4 AVC, and granted a 1080p transfer Basic Instinct arrives on BR courtesy of Lions Gate Films. The presentation is good but not impeccable. Detail is mostly strong and convincing, colors are lush and vivid, and contrast acceptable. The panoramic vistas from San Francisco for example are solid with enough depth allowing the viewer to truly appreciate Verhoeven's vision. Some of the indoor scenes however are a bit problematic. The color-scheme is notably weaker here as the lushness noted earlier is often absent. Furthermore, occasionally I noticed a tiny dose of color-bleeding which may bother some of you with more elaborate setups. I also see that there have been some restoration partial efforts applied here to clean up some of the easily noticeable aging patterns the print has suffered. Still, I don't believe that this was a full-blown effort as consistency appears to be an issue. Still, this is a tremendous improvement over previous SDVD versions of the film. With this in mind, I don't believe that if you like this film as much as I do you would need much of an encouragement to consider upgrading from standard-def to high-def. Without a shadow of a doubt currently this is the best presentation of the film in any format.
Basic Instinct Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are two tracks on this disc: English: Dolby Digital 5.1 EX and English: DTS-HD 5.1. It is somewhat of a letdown that Basic Instinct did not receive a full-blown DTS-HD Master audio treatment as the film certainly would have benefited greatly from it but nevertheless the DTS-HD track adds enough for one to enjoy the film. The surround activity here is very good and as far as I am concerned notably more impressive than the Dolby Digital 5.1 EX track (a good scene to compare the two would be the road chase after Catherine leaves the house and heads to her mother). Dialog on the other hand is crisp, crystal clear, and very easy to follow. Balance is upheld expertly and I did not detect any hissing, pop-ups, or cracks. Finally, I found the bass to be rich and strong enough to meet the expectations on the more demanding amongst us (the dancing scene in the night club could be a good barometer). To sum it all up, I do agree that a DTS-HD Master would have been the perfect solution for this disc but it is what it is, and the current treatment is quite pleasing as well.
Basic Instinct Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The extras department is where this disc shines. Yes, all of them are ported from the special edition that Lions Gate Films released awhile ago (the rather cheesy Ice Pick-offer) but even with the DVD version I found a lot of these to be more than just rehashed comments and footage. There is plenty here that will definitely add to your appreciation of this film.
First there is top-notch commentary by the director of Basic Instinct Paul Verhoeven and the Director of Photography Jan De Bont (Speed). Both of them go in great detail explaining the excessive use of sex and violence and the reaction the story was meant to spur amongst movie goers. The perception of sex as convenient form of empowerment is certainly analyzed by Verhoeven in a manner most directors working in Hollywood nowadays would have a difficult time justifying this well. I strongly recommend that you plan on listening to the Dutch director's words. They are most illuminating.
The second commentary on this disc is by feminist critic and author Camille Paglia and as far as I am concerned is in harsh dissonance with what Verhoeven talks about earlier. It deconstructs Basic Instinct through an entirely different set of moral and social norms that more or less are not applicable to the ideas and message Verhoeven introduces through his commentary. It appears that the bulk of the criticism (I would not call it a benevolent analysis) here is justified on the premise of disagreeing in principle rather than critiquing to highlight what the film may or may not misrepresent.
"Blonde Poison" –The Making of Basic Instinct is a look back at the history of the film. There is plenty of discussion surrounding the script of the film by Joe Eszterhas (Jagged Edge), how it was approached by Verhoeven, how the public responded to the film, and what the critics thought about it. To sum it all up while a lot of the comments here recall old "controversies" they do not seem that controversial anymore.
"Cleaning up Basic Instinct" is nothing more than a side by side comparison between the sanitized for TV version of the film and the original theatrical presentation. This is censorship in action, plain and simple. In addition there are a few storyboard comparisons for some of the edgier scenes and a few tests with Sharon Stone and Jeanne Tripplehorn. Finally, we have the original theatrical trailer for the film as well as a gallery with trailers for other LionsGate Films productions.
Basic Instinct Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
I have a great deal of admiration for Paul Verhoeven's Basic Instinct. Despite a few minor inconsistencies it certainly set a standard of excellence very few films have been able to challenge. There is a timeless sense of wickedness here that the older this film gets the more lucrative it feels. Indeed, this is a maverick-picture which critics and audiences will keep coming back to in the years to come. The BD courtesy of LionsGate Films is good. It is not solid by any stretch of the imagination but it far surpasses any other release of Basic Instinct out there. Thus, if you treasure the film as much as I do adding this BD to your collections would be more than justified.
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