Fatal Instinct (1993)


USA. 1993.


Director – Carl Reiner, Screenplay – David O’Malley, Producers – Pierce Gardner & Katie Jacobs, Photography – Gabriel Beristain, Music – Richard Gibbs, Process Photography – 4-Ward Productions, Special Effects Supervisor – Clay Pinney, Production Design – Sandy Veneziano. Production Company – MGM


Armand Assante (Ned Ravine), Sean Young (Lola Cain), Kate Nelligan (Lana Ravine), Sherilyn Fenn (Laura Lincolnberry), Christopher McDonald (Frank Kelbo), James Remar (Max Shady)


Lawyer/police detective Ned Ravine meets the dazzlingly seductive Lola Cain in the course of his duty and eventually succumbs to her charms. However, Lola turns psychotically deranged after thinking that Ned called her ugly. Meanwhile, Ned’s wife Lana discovers that Ned has a three million dollar life insurance policy, the value of which will triple if he is shot, then thrown out of a northbound train and lands in a freshwater stream. She persuades her lover to help set Ned up so that she can claim the money. Meanwhile, Max Shady, someone that Ned defended but who ended up going to jail, is released and vows vengeance against Ned.

Fatal Instinct is an attempt to conduct an Airplane (1980)-styled parody of film noir and the modern psycho-sexual thriller. It was slammed heavily upon its initial release but proves a moderately likeable effort. It comes from Carl Reiner who has a respectable lineage as a comedy director with the likes of Oh, God! (1977) and Steve Martin hits such as The Jerk (1982), Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid (1982), The Man with Two Brains (1983) and All of Me (1984). Before that, Reiner has a long history as a writer, producer and performer in comedy variety shows going back to the 1950s. To more modern audiences, he is better known as the father of Rob Reiner and for the role of Saul Bloom in the Ocean’s Eleven films.

Carl Reiner takes a number of wide and often amusing stabs at various thrillers of then recent lineage:– Basic Instinct (1992) – Sean Young displays her lack of underwear in Armand Assante’s office, which he deals with by tossing her a pair of Pop-Up Panties from a tissue box in his drawer; Fatal Attraction (1987) – instead of Armand Assante’s daughter, Sean Young kidnaps his pet skunk and takes it for a rollercoaster ride and is then found in his kitchen merely cooking linguine; Body Heat (1981) – Armand Assante tries to smash through a set of French doors to get to Sean Young but the lawn chair he uses breaks and he has to crash through the wall using a motorised lawnmower; Sleeping With the Enemy (1991) – Sherilyn Fenn is on the run from a psychotic husband; Cape Fear (1991) – there is a vengeful ex-client named Max Shady who has a series of tattoos on his body that quote Bart Simpson and Pee-Wee Herman; the refrigerator sex scene from 9½ Weeks (1986) – with love-making inside the fridge, on the stairs and while balancing plates on the ends of poles.

Reiner swipes at the entire genre of film noir – there is a somewhat overplayed joke that starts from the opening shot that focuses on Sean Young’s high-heels shoes as gum, newspapers and cans get stuck on them. Everywhere, including cars and phone booths, has a twirling fan. A newspaper comes spinning into camera only to arrive upside down; saxophone players can be spotted following people around whenever noir-styled music takes over.

There are inevitable moments when Fatal Instinct slips into silliness, but not too many. The film is too frenetic to make it anything more than slight in the memory, but it nevertheless passes the time amusingly.

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