American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
"Basic Instinct 2" resembles its heroine: It gets off by living dangerously. Here is a movie so outrageous and preposterous it is either (a) suicidal or (b) throbbing with a horrible fascination. I lean toward (b). It's a lot of things, but boring is not one of them. I cannot recommend the movie, but ... why the hell can't I? Just because it's godawful? What kind of reason is that for staying away from a movie? Godawful and boring, that would be a reason.
I have here an e-mail from Adam Burke, a reader who says, "I'm tired of reading your reviews where you give a movie three stars but make sure we know it isn't a great movie. You always seem to want to cover your ass, making sure we know you're smarter than the movie." He has a point. Of course I am smarter than most movies, but so are you. That doesn't always prevent us from enjoying them. What Burke doesn't mention is my other maddening tendency, which is to give a movie 1-1/2 stars and then hint that it's really better than that.
Which brings us full circle to "Basic Instinct 2." It has an audacious plot that depends on (a) a psychopathic serial killer being able to manipulate everyone in her life, or (b) a woman who uncannily seems to be a psychopathic serial killer, while there is (c) an alternative explanation for everything. True, (a), (b) or (c) are equally impossible, but they're the only possibilities, I think. That leaves us feeling screwed at the end, which is how everyone in the film feels, so we cross the finish line together.
So much for the plot. Now for Sharon Stone. She may get some of the worst reviews in years, but she delivers the goods. Playing Catherine Tramell, a trashy novelist who toys with life, death and sex while doing "research" for her next best seller, Stone brings a hypnotic fascination to her performance. You don't believe it, but you can't tear your eyes away. She talks dirty better than anyone in the movies. She can spend hours working her way through "every position in Masters and Johnson," she sighs wistfully, and forget all about it in a week, "but I'd remember it if a man died while having sex with me."