Fatal Instinct (1993)
Fatal Instinct (1993)

Genre: Crime Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 31 min.

Release Date: October 29th, 1993 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Carl Reiner Actors: Armand Assante, Sherilyn Fenn, Sean Young, Kate Nelligan, Christopher McDonald, James Remar, Tony Randall, Clarence Clemons




ho can say no to a wiener?” Detective and defense attorney Ned Ravine (Armand Assante) and his partner Arch (John Witherspoon) are on a stakeout at a carnival when a sultry, seductive woman, Lola Cain (Sean Young), interrupts their film noir musings. This nearly allows the pantyhose-masked crook (Blake Clark) they’ve been tailing to escape. And after he’s eventually apprehended anyway, Ravine offers his services as a lawyer – a convenient dual gig.

The long hours and lack of sleep prevent the cop from realizing that his wife Lana (Kate Nelligan) is cheating on him with mobile mechanic Frank Kelbo (Christopher McDonald), who is supposed to be repairing her Mercedes. He’s also blind to the fact that his law office secretary, Laura Lincolnberry (Sherilyn Fenn), is madly in love with him. Furthermore, he’s oblivious to the triple indemnity clause in his life insurance policy, which prompts his wife to plan a complicated murder to collect $9 million. On top of that, convicted felon Max Shady (James Remar) is getting out of jail the next day and is sure to want revenge.

This Carl Reiner-directed comedy is an obvious spoof of “Fatal Attraction” and “Basic Instinct,” while also sending up specific scenes and concepts from other popular films of the time, such as “Sleeping with the Enemy” and “Body Heat” (as well as classic thrillers such as “The Night of the Hunter,” “Double Indemnity,” and “Chinatown”). Aside from those parodies, the film features plenty of “Airplane!” types of verbal humor (like literal interpretations of common phrases), breaks in the fourth wall, visual bits of nonsense, and oodles of sexual innuendo. There’s even a man with a saxophone (Clarence Clemons of Bruce Springsteen’s E-Street Band, no less) who follows characters around for the perfect musical accompaniment – as well as overlapping voiceover narrations and over-the-top slapstick.

Following along with the design of Mel Brooks’ brand of goofy imitations – going so far as to directly copy a handful of gimmicks – “Fatal Instinct” attempts to cram as many jokes as possible into a flimsy reproduction of a recent box-office success (mirroring the moderate futility of sending up Hitchcock’s works in “High Anxiety,” which already boast plenty of humor amid the suspense). Some land quite nicely, but others fall flat; the hope is that the relentless onslaught speedily brushes past the ones that don’t work, allowing audiences to only remember the better gags. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough great moments to make this production altogether entertaining – despite a few solid, littler chuckles and some clever, noirish, metaphoric blunders.

– Mike Massie

  • 5/10