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(This review contains some spoilers, but I made sure I didn't give away the ending.)

Basic Instinct is a high budget, sex and drugs fuelled thriller in the vein of a good Hitchcock film. It starts off with a beautiful woman having sex with a rock and roll star, stabbing him to death as she reaches orgasm. The ensuing story is about three things.

Firstly, it's about whether the prime suspect actually is the killer or not. In this respect, it's quite similar to Paul Verhoeven's previous film, Total Recall, in which it's equally possible that the protagonist's adventure is real or that it's an artificially induced dream.

Secondly, it's about whether she'll get away with it or not. As a psychologist and an author, she knows how to craft a lie and how to manipulate people, two skills she uses to her full advantage.

Thirdly, it's about whether she'll then kill the detective investigating her.

Despite often being too explicit to be erotic (let's face it, sex itself just isn't that sexy), I still think Basic Instinct is a gripping story. The suspect appears to be evil. The detective is clearly naive. It's fascinating to see her push him ever deeper into despair, and to see him willingly go along with her mind games because he's smitten with her and he thinks he can win them.

Enough people have read into the film as social commentary, or even part of the social problem, as the suspect's ability to manipulate men comes from her flaunting her sexual desirability. However, this seems to me like a reasonable enough way of controlling others if you happen to be both attractive and a psychopath. Bear in mind that the screenplay was written by a man for other men to enjoy - this is Hollywood in the nineties, after all. Don't expect miracles of political correctness for the era.

Apparently some people were upset that the suspect appeared to be both bisexual and a serial killer, as if a connection was implied, but I for one thought Sharon Stone portrayed the character well. The rock and roll star she liked to fuck dies at the start of the story, and when the detectives tell her how he was killed, she doesn't so much as bat an eyelid. In sharp contrast, when her lover Roxy dies, she shows true sorrow, if not responsibility. She clearly enjoys playing mind games with men, but only loves another woman.

In a reversal of pretend lesbianism for the benefit of a straight man watching the women in question, the suspect seems to be closer to faking an enjoyment of straight sex in order to make her girlfriend jealous, in a way that eventually backfires. To her, men are mere playthings to be easily discarded, while her girlfriend is someone she feels deeply for.

At the end of the day, however, to read even this much into the film is to miss the point. It's emotionally engaging because you can see exactly what the suspect is doing, assuming she is the killer, and you wonder if she'll be able to pull it off or not. Such a suspenseful film is very entertaining, and that's all a film is meant to be: entertainment.

I enjoyed this film as a tale of tragic descent. It has a fair amount of sex and violence, as you might expect considering the plot, and as long as you don't mind that, it's a gripping psychological thriller.