January 25, 1993 12:00 PM

Madonna, Willem Dafoe, Joe Mantegna, Anne Archer

The buzz surrounding Madonna‘s latest screen project, Body of Evidence, is that it is a rip-off of last year’s notoriously naughty—and successful-thriller Basic Instinct. The rumor is not entirely accurate. Body of Evidence has the dubious distinction of being not enough like Basic Instinct. It is not slick, kinky or even scary. What it is just plain silly.

The plot is (Basic-ally) familiar. A sexy blonde—played by Madonna with all the cool of a girl trying to saunter in her first pair of high heels—is a Portland, Oreg., S&M queen who gets her kicks making men writhe while handcuffed to bedposts. When her current lover—an older rich man with a weak heart—turns up dead in bed, Madonna is accused of murder-by-overarousal. She responds by getting Dafoe to defend and, promptly, bed her. “Have you ever seen animals make love, Frank?” asks Madonna. “It’s intense. It’s violent. But they never hurt each other.” “We’re not animals,” argues Dafoe. “Yes,” says Madonna, “we are.”

This is, in Evidence, what passes for deep conversation. But then almost nothing in this pretentious movie is the genuine article. The lighting is so overdramatic it seems more spoofish than effective. The acting is wooden (most regrettably by “other woman” Archer, who is stuck annoyingly between frenzied and forlorn). And the courtroom banter is both boring and absurd.

Even the sex is wanting. “That’s what I do. I f—-,” brags Madonna to Dafoe, adding, “I’m hard to resist.” And, in fact, the raunchy scenes between her and Dafoe are the best part of the film. (Candle shops may well be hit by adventurous types wondering just how much hot wax really hurts.) Still, the movie cries for more kink—not so much in act as in attitude. Unlike Sharon Stone in Instinct, Madonna rarely indulges in unexpected in-your-face come-ons: Her clothes are prim and drab; she never flirts with the police officers; on the stand, she explains the handcuffs—”Andrew bought them for Valentine’s Day”—without a trace of irony or devilish delight. This may be a wise defense technique, but it makes for a forgettable film. (R)

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