Locarno Film Review: ‘Instinct’

Variety | 8/11/2019 | Guy Lodge
Click For Photo: https://pmcvariety.files.wordpress.com/2019/07/instinct.jpg?w=700&h=393&crop=1

Now that “Game of Thrones” has finally reached its conclusion, releasing its gifted international ensemble into the casting wilds, will Hollywood remember just what it has in Carice van Houten? It’s not that the statuesque Dutch thesp hasn’t been consistently employed since her startling 2006 breakout in Paul Verhoeven’s “Black Book,” or even that she’s been underappreciated. (She just, after all, landed an Emmy nod to send off her vivid work as Melisandre in the HBO juggernaut.) But few filmmakers have tested her emotional breadth and technical control the way Verhoeven did — and for anyone who’s forgotten the extent of van Houten’s skill set, actress-turned-filmmaker Halina Reijn’s impressive, icily disciplined debut feature “Instinct” provides a fearsome reminder.

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Locarno - Film - Review

Locarno Film Review: 'Instinct'

Intelligently sensational adult fare, crafted with paper-cut precision on all fronts, it stars van Houten as a prison psychologist who finds herself locked in a who-blinks-first game of sexual suppression with a convicted serial rapist — played with equally gutsy impact by Marwan Kenzari, fresh from his turn as Jafar in Disney’s “Aladdin” remake. The leads’ blockbuster connections should help “Instinct” (a bold selection for Locarno’s populist-minded Piazza Grande strand) rack up arthouse sales as it blazes its way through the festival circuit.

Basic - Instinct - Subtitle - Risk - Addiction

If the lousy “Basic Instinct 2” hadn’t already squandered it on a subtitle, “Risk Addiction” might have been a suitable title for Reijn’s debut: Its considerable tension hinges on just how close van Houten’s protagonist is willing to skate to violent harm in the name of psychological curiosity, erotic arousal or both.

Fortyish and formidably single, Nicoline (just the name sounds like a hidden bad habit) is a self-reliant career woman, with a wardrobe and apartment austerely streamlined to give away little of her interior life — which evidently has its share of damage, if...
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