March 24, 2006
Red hot after the success of Basic Instinct (1992), Sharon Stone followed it up with another thriller called Sliver (1993). The film was plagued with problems. Stone didn’t even want to do it, she and her leading man, William Baldwin, did not get along and the filmmakers were unable to agree on an ending. The results were less than impressive and the critics savaged it.
Carly (Stone) moves into a swanky, ultra-exclusive apartment building (book editors must get paid really well!). Carly spends her spare time in her apartment practicing her putting game and gratifying herself while taking a bath. Unfortunately, she was not told about the beautiful young woman who was mysteriously murdered in the building (in the apartment she moves into no less). Pretty soon, other residents start turning up dead.
Is it Zeke Hawkins (Baldwin), the enigmatic, good-looking tenant who stays at home and designs computer games? Or is it Jack Lansford (Berenger), the lecherous, self-absorbed writer of popular fiction? Carly does some research at the library and finds out that maybe it wasn’t such a good idea moving into this building, dubbed “horror high rise” by the press after three murders.
Penned by the notorious screenwriter Joe Eszterhas, Sliver, like his script for Basic Instinct, is a misogynistic male fantasy with the illusion of a strong, proactive female protagonist but in reality she is constantly objectified by the camera. The predominant theme of this film is voyeurism. Carly watches a party in a neighbouring building. There is the mysterious person spying on Carly (and others) in her apartment via hidden surveillance cameras. Carly uses her telescope and catches glimpses of her neighbours on the street. Paul Verhoeven is the only director who has been able to handle Eszterhas’ bloated, stilted screenplays because he is able to let them run amok instead of trying to contain them like Phillip Noyce tries to and that is his fatal mistake.
The sex scenes aren’t all that erotic with ill-fitting music playing over the action. Stone, as always, looks great but her romantic scenes with Baldwin lack any kind of passion or sensuality. The film doesn’t flow naturally, plodding gamely along. The dialogue is flat and clunky – something you expect from a film school novice but it is easy to make that mistake with Eszterhas, the king of cheesy thrillers (see Jade). Sliver is an A-list movie with B-film content. It has all the ingredients but they just don’t gel. You expect these archetypal characters in this kind of a thriller but either the actors weren’t given proper direction or they aren’t that good. You decide. This film is strictly Hitchcock-lite with feeble allusions to Rear Window (1954). Avoid at your peril.