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Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Retro Review: Sliver (1993)

Cast: Sharon Stone, William Baldwin, Tom Beringer, Martin Landau
Genre: Erotic Thriller
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $166 million

Plot: A woman moves into an exclusive New York City apartment building, which she soon discovers house tenants with all manner of shocking secrets 

'Sex Bomb, Sex Bomb, Sliver You're My Erotic Sex Thriller Bomb'

Sharon Stone's highly charged follow-up to Basic Instinct, courtesy of Joel Eszterhas, who wanted to further capitalise on her sexual presence, Sliver is truly an abomination that it is hardly any wonder that it flopped at the box office.

A divorcee played by Stone moves into a high-rise apartment, where several grisly murders took place. As events unfold, we learn rich apartment owner played by William Baldwin isn't all that he seems. He and Stone's characters have an affair with each other, and after that, he shows her his dirty little secret: that he is a voyeur with hundreds of monitors, where he can spy on people and follow their every move. 

Director Phillip Noyce claims he had to make 110 cuts and changes to the film for Sliver to avoid the dreaded NC-17 rating, with disagreements made with the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) ratings over this. This, in turn, affected the state of the film and made it not as watchable and enthralling as it ought to have been. Joel Eszterhas turned Sliver into a screenplay.

Eszterhas is not a very good screenwriter, just by taking into consideration the material of the films he has penned: Basic Instinct, Flashdance, Showgirls. It's like all style, no substance: he throws in sex scenes when and where it sees fit, just to make up for the lack of mystery that he omits and characterisation-wise, he doesn't seem to bother much. It's like this guy is into sex in such a big way, but approaches the subject in a less tactful and more sleazy fashion, where people's emotions and feelings are non-existent. Here, the script is both poor and lacking, with some of the worst lines uttered by the characters. The title is confusing, as it doesn't allude to, nor make any distinction between noisy people and voyeurs, the acting is largely forgettable, mostly thanks to the dire writing by Eszterhas, with Sliver marking the start of his downfall, and as for the story, it is so incoherent and makes little to no sense to the audience. Lines such as ''I've been getting a plastic yeast infection'' borders on farcical and laughable. Sliver doesn't manage to create the right atmosphere and the thrills, chills, suspense fall flat and it just felt to be not very believable.

Schlockmeister Eszterhas must have been so hell-bent making a gender-flip version of Basic Instinct, thus making the female the victim instead of the man for a change, that he seemed to forget to inject more of the thrills and genuine twists so shocking, but would have made it more enjoyable. Yet Eszterhas chooses not to do that, much to Sliver's detriment.

The story takes a ridiculously long time to get going and it is built up in slow dribs and drabs. That, and it was boring to boot as well. The mystery that has also been alluded throughout that short trailer is also heavy diluted. Oh, and the sex scenes looked.... iffy, awkward and corny and not very erotic. They were no more erotic than the ones I've seen in other straight to DVD softcore adult erotic thrillers that air late at night.

William Baldwin is the big problem with this film, and with a better actor, he would have given a more substantial effort than Baldwin, who doesn't have much of a screen presence, whatsoever: It's no surprise to learn that both he and Sharon Stone didn't get on well with one another on set during filming of this movie. Sharon Stone is reduced to being a window dresser in the role reversal as the protagonist, quite frankly, as her character is rendered even more useless with not much to do and not making much of an impact, as one expects from a film such as this. & Tom Berenger has a needless supporting role. 

The major stumbling block as to why this film is so poor and did not make great waves, financially as Basic Instinct did, is because it focuses more on the Sharon Stone & William Baldwin sex scenes and their relationship, and far less so on the movie's tension and mystery. Thrillers, erotic-wise or not, need that aspect to make it worthwhile and to entice audiences in coming back to it, afterwards. Sliver is devoid of that tension; in no way, whilst I was sitting through this film, did I sense that tension coming through. Not even from the score, itself.

The characters motivations are so random,  or logic without any sense and with most of the characters, but for Stone's protagonist to an extent, are just shallow and equally detestable to the core.

But the ending is so rubbish and thus, could have ended in a more highly explosive manner, yet Eszterhas cops out on that one.

For all of its hype generated by the original trailer, Sliver rarely sends shivers down my spine.

Final Verdict:

Yet another in a long line of films that underwhelms and under delivers with a miscast and as an equally bad performance by William Baldwin as the sexual predator, Sliver is Grade Z erotic thriller schlock masquerading as a high-end Hollywood sex thriller. With sex scenes more tawdry than erotic and sultry and just horrendous all-round, Sliver is understandably forgettable, as its execution is poor.

With a far better male lead and a better writer than Joel Eszterhas, this would have been a much superior effort. Sadly, the cast is wasted and Eszterhas, the actual screenplay and Billy Baldwin's unconvincing turn, render it inadequate as Sliver is somewhat lousy and trivial as a film, overall.


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