FILM / Base instincts with a low body count: Body of Evidence (18) Uli Edel (US); Dust Devil (18) Richard Stanley (UK/US)

EVERYONE involved in Body of Evidence is at pains to underline the project's artistic integrity. 'I am a great admirer of the courtroom genre,' says the director, Uli Edel. And Willem Dafoe has declared himself attracted by the prospect of wearing a suit in the movie - 'that'll be fun' - and of having a kid - 'that'll be fun.' And the explicit sex scenes with Madonna? 'That'll be interesting,' Dafoe admitted, almost as an afterthought.

Of course, few punters will be stampeding into Body of Evidence eager to see Willem Dafoe in a suit. And to be fair, the film isn't selling itself as art. It begins with a bang - a thunderstorm orchestrating an energetic bedroom workout. Alas, the male gymnast expires on the job - he had a dicky heart - leaving Madonna accused of bonking him to death. As this is not yet an indictable offence, the actual charge is of inducing heart failure by slipping cocaine in his nasal spray.

Body of Evidence would like to run on the Basic Instinct ticket - this month's Empire runs a long list of copycat scenes. Near-clones of big box- office hits aren't exactly unheard-of in Hollywood, however, and the reasons why the formula hasn't gelled here have more to do with the differences between them. For a start, while Michael Douglas was a fast-living detective tooling around town, Body of Evidence is courtroom-bound: the bits between the naughty bits are wordy and static (both films are directed by Europeans in Hollywood, but Edel doesn't have any of Verhoeven's visual flair, or his dark humour). There are the obligatory surprise witnesses, but the film doesn't bother with spectacular summing-up perorations. The trial is just a formality.

Which brings us to the script. Joe Eszterhas took flak for the seven-figure fee he received for Basic Instinct, but at least he understands great dialogue. Body of Evidence comes from a writer whose main previous credits are the dim chess thriller Knight Moves and Highlander 3. Poor Madonna, in huge close-up, has to deliver lines like 'I never know why men lie. They just do. They lie' (the film's strong on psychological motivation). The credits stipulate, Wayne's World-like, that it is NOT based on the novel by Patricia Cornwell.

The sex? Well it may be juicy for viewers who enjoy getting laid on broken glass and having hot candle-wax dripped on sensitive parts of their anatomy. We see nipple clamps, but not in situ. And, while Basic Instinct was highly ambivalent towards its rapacious heroine, and ended up attracting a strong lesbian and feminist following, this film's oddly puritanical - the revelation of one character's bisexuality is meant to be a real shocker. Even Madonna, rather unconvincingly, looks aghast.

Oh yes, Madonna. She's a little too old for the role (during the press show there was much unkind cackling at the repeated, rather desperate- sounding references to her character's youth and beauty). Shooting her through what looks like several jars of orange marmalade doesn't help.

And she's hardly a star shrouded in mystery - to be credible as a did-she-didn't-she femme fatale she needs a veil of ambiguity about her. That's why she's best in straight-arrow, bad-girl supporting roles but lacks the depth and complexity to carry a movie. She's all surface. Basic Instinct's Sharon Stone is not exactly a shrinking violet, but she had the advantage of bursting on the scene out of relative obscurity. And Verhoeven used her well - the infamous crotch- flashing scene had surprise and brevity on its side. But when you can have Madonna in Sex, why bother to see her in this movie?

Richard Stanley's Dust Devil is a mystical thriller set in Namibia shortly after the country's independence from South Africa. Here, a serial killer travels through the desert sands leaving behind a trail of ritual slayings - he seems intended as some kind of never- quite-formulated political metaphor. The film's visual antecedents are Italian westerns and horror movies (Sergio Leone out of Dario Argento), although Britain no longer has the exhibition structure for it to build into a comparable B- movie classic (it's playing for a fixed, two-week run). And, in any case, while Dust Devil looks wonderful and has some eerily effective moments (it's a great improvement over the director's first film, Hardware), the performances are too patchy and, perhaps as a result of the long, troubled production history and repeated recutting, Stanley's way with narrative is too uncertain for it to be counted a real success.

Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Arts and Entertainment
The audience aimed thousands of Apple’s product units at Taylor Swift throughout the show
musicReview: On stage her manner is natural, her command of space masterful
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Channel 4 is reviving its Chris Evans-hosted Nineties hit TFI Friday

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford plays Indiana Jones in The Last Crusade (1989)

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
A Glastonbury reveller hides under an umbrella at the festival last year

Glastonbury
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Miles Morales is to replace Peter Parker as the new Spider-Man

comics
Arts and Entertainment
The sequel to 1993's Jurassic Park, Jurassic World, has stormed into the global record books to score the highest worldwide opening weekend in history.

film
Arts and Entertainment
Odi (Will Tudor)
tvReview: Humans, episode 2
Arts and Entertainment
Can't cope with a Port-A-loo? We've got the solution for you

FestivalsFive ways to avoid the portable toilets

Arts and Entertainment
Some zookeepers have been braver than others in the #jurassiczoo trend

Jurassic WorldThe results are completely brilliant

Arts and Entertainment
An original Miffy illustration
art
Arts and Entertainment
Man of mystery: Ian McKellen as an ageing Sherlock Holmes
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Kitchen set: Yvette Fielding, Patricia Potter, Chesney Hawkes, Sarah Harding and Sheree Murphy
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Evans has been confirmed as the new host of Top Gear
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Top of the class: Iggy Azalea and the catchy ‘Fancy’
music
Arts and Entertainment
Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters performs at Suncorp Stadium on February 24, 2015 in Brisbane, Australia.

music
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Evans had initially distanced himself from the possibility of taking the job

TV
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
British author Matt Haig

books
Arts and Entertainment
Homeland star Damian Lewis is to play a British Secret Service agent in Susanna White's film adaptation of John le Carre's Our Kind of Traitor

Film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

    Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

    This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
    Paris Fashion Week

    Paris Fashion Week

    Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
    A year of the caliphate:

    Isis, a year of the caliphate

    Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
    Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

    Marks and Spencer

    Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
    'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

    'We haven't invaded France'

    Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
    Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

    Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

    The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
    7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

    Remembering 7/7 ten years on

    Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
    Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

    They’re here to help

    We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
    Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

    Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

    'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
    What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

    What exactly does 'one' mean?

    Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue
    E L James's book Grey is a reminder of how the phenomenon of the best-seller works

    Grey is a reminder of how the phenomenon of the best-seller works

    It's hard to understand why so many are buying it – but then best-selling was ever an inexact science, says DJ Taylor
    Behind the scenes of the world's most experimental science labs

    World's most experimental science labs

    The photographer Daniel Stier has spent four years gaining access to some of the world's most curious scientific experiments
    It's the stroke of champions - so why is the single-handed backhand on the way out?

    Single-handed backhand: on the way out?

    If today's young guns wish to elevate themselves to the heights of Sampras, Graf and Federer, it's time to fire up the most thrilling shot in tennis
    HMS Saracen: Meeting the last survivor of a submarine found 72 years after it was scuttled

    HMS Saracen

    Meeting the last survivor of a submarine found 72 years after it was scuttled
    7/7 bombings 10 years on: Martine Wright lost both legs in the attack – she explains how her experience since shows 'anything is possible'

    7/7 bombings 10 years on

    Martine Wright lost both legs in the attack – she explains how her experience since shows 'anything is possible'