This little shocker from 1992 focuses on a ravaged, fraying homicide cop Nick Curran (Michael Douglas) who just can't stop shooting the wrong people.
And just when he should be heading off to the funny-farm for a long holiday, along comes one of the worst - and best - cases of his career.
There's a murderer out there with a penchant for ice-picks. There's enough gore to keep the most morbid cop happy - and lashings of nudity and wild sex as well, courtesy of Nick's psychiatrist, the beautiful brunette Dr. Beth Garner (Jeanne Tripplehorn) and beautiful blonde multi-millionaire crime-writer Catherine Trammell (Sharon Stone).
Yes, every woman in this movie is beautiful, and ready to make love like a wild animal. Such is life when you're a sleazoid Homicide cop like Nick Curran. You just have to get used to these things.
This film has been attacked by some critics as misogynistic. Others have condemned it as being anti-gay, with an unsympathetic portrayal of lesbianism. It's true that the lesbian angle seems just cheap sensationalism; if you can't cope with this almost perverted voyeurism, give this flick a miss.
And yes, it's definitely misogynistic - but anything seen through the eyes of Nick Curran, this deadbeat loser 'hero', would have to be misogynistic by necessity. It's an integral part of a very unpleasant character.
How much of Nick Curran's unpleasantness stems from Joe Eszterhas's screenplay, and how much simply because the part is played by the deeply unlikeable genuine sleazoid Michael Douglas, is open to debate. Just accept that the lead character is a deeply unpleasant maniacal character who seems to have recently crawled out of a large bucket of slime. I wonder if Michael Douglas was really trying to give that impression. I think he just can't help it.
The great asset of this movie is Sharon Stone, in her sensational portrayal of rich-kid bisexual author Catherine Trammell. Forget her perfectly-formed upjutting breasts and luscious buttocks (if you can). Forget the flash of snatch in the infamous police interrogation scene. See past the nicely gratuitous nudity, and recognise that the very classy Sharon Stone shows that she can act all the other actors in this flick right off the screen. It's a ripper of a performance, subtle and complex, doing total justice to the character. Forget Douglas; this is Sharon Stone's movie. Without her, this movie would have sunk without trace.
That's not to say it's not well made. Director Paul Verhoeven has done a great job, with tight editing and fast pacing - not quite at the calibre of his very fine Starship Troopers, but professional to the last inch of celluloid.
Yes, this is sub-Hitchockian trash, but it's immensely enjoyable and still packs multiple weighty punches. And it did spawn Carl Reiner's little gem Fatal Instinct, and we should be grateful for that alone...
This anamorphic transfer is decently done for the most part, but some scenes (exterior rooftop shots for instance) show severe aliasing.
The occasional aliasing does seem the worst sort of artefact present, with little actual print damage evident. Colours are clean and strong, with good shadow detail.
This is a great B-grade thriller, despite the presence of Michael Douglas - and because of the presence of Sharon Stone in her finest role.
I'd recommend it for rental only. If you want to buy it, hold out for a 'Special Edition' of the sort available in Regions 1 and 2. For those interested, the UK Region 2 'Special Edition' offers DTS surround as well as Dolby Digital. And there's a German three-DVD set which offers the full soundtrack as well as a swag of special features.