Reviewing Paul Verhoeven’s 1979 Dutch feature The 4th Man, Dave Kehr objected to “conceptions of women as castrating harpies and of gays as predatory beasts that are insulting to all the sexualities involved.” Working from a script by Joe Eszterhas, Verhoeven did an even better job of hammering home those notions with Basic Instinct (1992). I hated this movie when it was released, but on reflection I think that his appreciation of Sharon Stone as dominatrix/superwoman had a lot to do with what made her a star. Verhoeven also treats Michael Douglas, playing a gullible cop, with the kind of comic-book flourishes that might easily pass for derisiveness and sometimes come across as just plain hilarious. Despite (or maybe because of) his obligatory nods to Hitchcock, this is slick and entertaining enough to work as thriller porn, even with two contradictory denouements to its mystery (take your pick—or rather, ice pick). George Dzundza and Dorothy Malone are among the other actors along for the ride.
R • 2 hours 7 min • 2013