American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
In their protests against Paul Verhoeven's “Basic Instinct,” gay activists have been giving away the ending of the movie. With some thrillers, that would be a damaging blow. But the ending of “Basic Instinct” is so arbitrary that it hardly matters. This is not a movie where the outcome depends upon the personality or behavior of the characters. It's just a wind-up machine to jerk us around.
Consider the last shot of the movie (no, I will not reveal it). This shot allows us to discover whodunit - whether one of the characters is a murderer, or not. The screen has faded to black. Then we get the last shot, and it answers our question. But if the last shot had provided the opposite answer, it still would have been consistent with everything that had happened in the film. Each and every shred of evidence throughout the entire movie supports two different conclusions.
This is the kind of ending beloved by marketing experts. The audience likes the heroine? Make her innocent. They hate her? Make her the killer. Only one shot has to be changed. As a result, I left the movie feeling depressed and manipulated - because it didn't matter how hard I tried to follow the plot and figure things out, the whole movie was just toying with me. At least some of the other recent titles in this genre - like “Fatal Attraction” and “Sea of Love” - played fair.
The movie stars Michael Douglas as a troubled police detective who has been up before Internal Affairs, after shooting some tourists in a murky misunderstanding. He gets involved in the investigation of the kinky murder of a rock star. The rock star's sometime girlfriend (Sharon Stone) has written a novel in which a rock star is murdered in precisely the same way. Does this mean she is guilty? Or did a copycat killer try to frame her? The police questioning of the woman is the best scene in the movie, as Stone flirts shamelessly and toys with their male libidos.