So Basic Instinct came out in 1992 and spawned a number of imitators. Madonna released her Sex book the same year, along with her album Erotica, and this movie in 1993, all of which formed a triple-media statement ensuring that we all know that Madonna is really, really hot. Unfortunately, none of it went over, and her cultural sex assault received a stern career rebuke in the form of low sales and poor reviews for all three. This film, which came out at a time when even Basic Instinct rip-offs were getting tired, has a plot entirely centered around how very hot and sexy Madonna is, and its sole appeal seems to be that if you see this movie, you're going to see Madonna naked and having a lot of sex. Which is exactly what happens.
Now, maybe it's just me, but Madonna has never struck me as all that sexy. She has always PRESENTED herself as super-sexy, with the revealing outfits and forthright, somewhat devouring attitude, and general presentation that you WILL find her sexy, dammit. But the reality is that she's a tiny bit scary, there's a bit too much desperation to it all, and she never closes her mouth, so you're always staring at her two large front teeth. This discordance weighs heavily on this movie, as well as the discordance that she's not much of an actor, and that, too, is being put right in your face while asking you not to notice.
During the credits we discover a few surprises in the cast. There's Willem Dafoe [not exactly someone I want to see be drawn into a steamy web of hot sex], Joe Mantegna, Jurgen Prochnow [oh dear, not again], Julianne Moore [that was a surprise!] and the national tragedy from which we are all still trying to recover, Anne Archer. People have asked me why I hate Anne Archer so much, and the answer is that in all her major roles, all she does is simper. And she is in full-on simper mode here, choking back tearful admission after tearful admission. For a while, if your role needed simpering, Anne Archer was your go-to.
So among the first things we see is Madonna having wild, porn-style sex on a videotape. A rich man has died during the act of coitus. Did she kill him? Mantegna as Bob shows up, annoying me right off the bat by standing under an umbrella despite the fact that it is clearly not raining, and no one else has one. Archer is on hand as Joanne, the dead guy's secretary. Then Dafoe as Frank goes after Madonna at the funeral, offering representation as her lawyer. Note the guy standing next to him, dead on camera, with a boom mike. That's, um, supposed to be there, right? That's not, you know, the real boom operator, is it? I wish I could be sure. Anyway, he approaches Madonna as Rebecca [let's just call her Madonna] and offers his representation. She says that everyone at the funeral thinks she's the slut that killed the deceased, and wants all his money, sort of the Anna Nicole Smith of her day. But Madonna says she loved him--really loved him!
Then Frank has dinner with this perky suburban woman, and it takes a while to realize--that's Julianne Moore! She has just been lucky enough to escape the perky/wronged wife roles, to the point where it's hard to see her in one, and acting fairly vapid. Bully for you escaping these roles, Julianne! Anyway, then the courtroom drama begins--this is before you've realized this is going to be largely a courtoom drama--and we learn that the entire case hinges on how very, very hot Madonna is and we are promised that the case will bring out much salacious testimony. Mantegna gives a speech about how she looks like a sweet lady, but her body is in the same category as a gun or knife. She is a deadly weapon! Madonna, please heed the words of Pat Benatar and stop using sex as a weapon!
Next we see that Madonna supposedly runs an art gallery. Then you keep seeing these bridges and you're like, WHERE is all this happening? We soon find out it's supposedly happening in Portland. UH-huh. Then Archer as Joanne comes on the stand and says she SAW Madonna spooning cocaine into the deceased's nose, and he had such a weak heart, what with cocaine and Madonna's deadly punanny, could be a way to KILL him! Then we immediately find out that there's some herbal power for asthma or whatever that just happens to look EXACTLY like cocaine and use the EXACT SAME paraphanelia [little bottles with little spoons], and THAT'S what it was! This is supposed to be one of those courtroom "A-ha!" moments, but it's all so contrived [and comes to nothing] the impression is that they found this little bit of trivia somewhere and just had to work it in.
Meanwhile Madonna is applying the heat to Frank, launching into casual conversation topics like "Have you ever seen animals fuck, Frank? It's INTENSE." Which causes him to respond "We're not animals," and her to purr "Yes we are." Feel the motherfucking heat. Then she's fingering herself in front of him, then getting acupuncture as he gazes on her derriere. At one point Madonna likens her BDSM experience to a childhood memory of crawling through thorns to get at these strawberries, which were all the sweeter for the pain she endured to get them. What, she was some feral child groveling in the dirt like the honey badger? Did she eat grubs, too? The sensual feral children digging in the dirt always eat strawberries, never grubs, you know?
Then--JURGEN PROCHNOW! He's some doctor or whatever. Then Madonna is delivered to her crazy 3-story glass houseboat, where she makes big come-ons to Frank, then tells him to go home. He does a bit of a Body Heat in returning to his car, then deciding he can't stand it, and coming back into Madonna's house, where they have somewhat violent sex, ripping of clothes, etc., before she whips out the candle and pours hot wax on him, even, it is implied, on his doo-dad. We are supposed to understand that Frank is being drawn into a darker side of sex such as he has never experienced before, but since he and Madonna spark as much heat as a water-damaged book and an orange, suffice to say you'll just have to take their word for it. The sex scene goes on miles too long, and then we see Frank in bed and--who is that?--Oh, it's Julianne. It was only now I realized Frank and Julianne are supposed to be married, and furthermore, have a kid! Wow, this movie is pretty casual about the LACK of responsibility or repercussions of Frank cheating on his wife and kid! Now he's got all sorts of wax burns on his chest, and he has to hide them from the wifey. I was sure we'd have some content about how he now wants to introduce some violent, animal sex into his relations with his wife, but I suppose that's on the cutting-room floor.
Soon we have the second of our big sex scenes, in a parking garage, in which Madonna breaks a light bulb and lays Frank back down on it, cutting into his back. They do it on the car hood, it one again goes on wayyy too long and generates no heat.
SPOILERS > > >
Then--Frank Langella is the surprise witness! He was an early potential victim with a bad heart who Madonna tried to fuck until he had a heart attack. Then, when he had heart surgery and was cured, she dumped him like a stone! Frank is outraged that she didn't tell him! She's outraged that he could even, like, THINK that about her! So she calls Julianne and spills about their affair. Then Julianne gets a big scene where she freaks out and finally dumps Frank! Then he goes over to Madonna's, furious, and well, it only takes a little bit of her masturbating in front of him for him to give in. Around this time you'll notice that the music is a little Carmina Burana-lite. Then Frank takes her from behind--unclear if we're supposed to understand this as butt-fucking, but if it was, no one would be surprised.
Then Joanne comes on to simper some more, and is exposed as having had an affair with the deceased! Couldn't SHE have killed him, out of a jealous rage? Then--Madonna takes the stand! I'll leave the thin pretext for her to offer testimony [after Frank didn't want her to] for you to discover. There's a funny moment around 1:23:10 where Madonna states that she doesn't read the newspaper and all the men in court chortle, as if to say "Yeah, what a fuckin' bimbo!" The issue of her and Frank Langella is brought up, and she reveals that he left her not because she was trying to to fuck him to his doom, but because he likes to ride the baloney pony! Frank nods that, to his deep and abiding debasement, it is true! Then he stoically stands, eyes downcast, and leaves the courtroom in shame. Wow, pretty out of touch for a movie from 1993 to present being gay as akin to leprosy, but in this movie you're either crazed with lust for Madonna, or you're a homo. Then the jury comes back, and Madonna is found--surprise--not guilty! Were you suprised? Me neither.
So Frank hot-foots it over to her houseboat that night, while you're thinking "Boy, the breakup of his marriage and loss of contact with his wife and child didn't slow him down!" He finds her saying incriminating things to--Jurgen Prochnow! They were in on it together all along! Madonna says, now that the trial is over, that yeah, she fucks, that's her schtick. That's how she gets what she wants. Then she lets Jurgen know he's no longer needed. Then he attacks her! They struggle for the gun! Frank shoots Jurgen! But--he's still alive and he shoots Madonna! She falls through the glass window and into the water! The cleansing water! Then it's over and you're like--wait? Where's my Madonna theme song?
< < < SPOILERS END
Yeah, it sucked, but in a vaguely amusing way. First you have nostalgia for the days of these kind of moronic sexy thrillers and their attempts to ride Basic Instinct's coattails. So it's inherently sleazy, which is always fun. Then you have Madonna and her three-pronged marketing approach to convince the world that she is really, REALLY sexy. If you take the tiniest of steps back, it's easy to see this movie as a giant infomercial about how very, very hot and sexy Madonna is. Not only do we see her naked and having sex more often than even the straightest guy really needs, but the entire story is built around her supposedly being such a hot number and how any man--who isn't a tainted homo like Langella--would throw away their lives just for one moment with her! Yowza!
Then of course amusement is had simply from knowing this is Madonna, and wondering once again why she simply cannot act. Why her every line reading is just flat. I've always gotten the impression that [aside from Desperately Seeking Susan] she is just too wrapped up in image management to really relax and get into any role. She's always "Madonna in a movie," never really disappearing into a role. And believe me, nothing has changed here, nor is it helped by the entire movie being an infomercial for how very hot and sexy we are to understand she is.
Anyway, kind of a bummer, and not nearly as fun as one would hope. The only amusement to be gained is from how very overwrought everything is, and how dramatically dead the proceedings are. Which is not, ultimately, all that fun.
If you're a huge Madonna fan or are interested in Basic Instinct knock-offs.