Synopsis: You like to watch….don’t you?
In the too-hot-for-theaters Unrated Cut of Silver, Sharon Stone steams up the screen… and someone is secretly watching her! When Carly (Stone) moves into one of New York’s most exclusive apartment buildings, its residents start turning up brutally murdered. And someone is videotaping Carly during her most private moments… Is it Zeke (William Baldwin), the building’s owner with a dangerous taste for voyeurism? Or Jack (Tom Berenger), the mysterious writer with a dark imagination? As Carly is drawn closer to the killer, you’ll like to watch.
eyelights: Sharon Stone’s performance. the concept. the message. the sexy stuff.
eyesores: William Baldwin. Tom Berenger. the script. the soundtrack.
‘Sliver’ was Sharon Stone’s follow-up after her star-making turn in the phenomenally successful ‘Basic Instinct‘. While it was directed by Philip Noyce, not Paul Verhoeven, it too, was written by Joe Eszterhas, and it promised audiences thrills and sexiness.
Audiences lined up like crazy for it. Unfortunately, while it delivered on some of the sexiness (albeit not nearly to the extent that ‘Basic Instinct’ did), it never really served up the thrills. In fact, it seemed quite impotent on that front, like a late-night cable movie made on a big budget.
Furthermore, the movie may have been on sold on the sexiness alone, but its core theme was actually about surveillance and voyeurism; it took place in a highrise, in which all the inhabitants were being monitored by a stranger, a man who may also be a serious threat to them.
The sex wasn’t enough to sell. Word quickly got around and, by the following week, ticket sales dropped dramatically; ‘Sliver’ vanished from cinemas.
Personally, I love the whole surveillance issue that is being discussed (albeit broadly), in the form of the CCTV monitoring taking place in the building. I didn’t get into it at the time, but in a rapidly-developing surveillance state, and seeing what’s happening in Great Britain, it’s something to think about.
It took until the final minutes of the picture before William Baldwin and Sharon Stone actually discuss the advantages and disadvantages of such a set-up, but it was nice for the filmmakers to at least make an attempt at it. Unfortunately, it’s too superficial to really make its point, and it clearly had no cultural impact, but bonus points for effort.
Anyway, when we meet Stone’s Carly, we discover that there has been a ghastly murder in the very apartment she is now occupying. Soon, many of the building’s inhabitants, coincidentally all people who have befriended Carly, begin to die under mysterious circumstances. Surely the stranger with all the monitors is the culprit, but who is he?
As far as I’m concerned, there weren’t enough red herrings, what with only two male leads -and potential suspects- in the whole picture. They tried to do like ‘Basic Instinct’ and put all the focus on one person, making that person seem dangerous, but it wasn’t twisty enough to distract our focus, to make us wonder who else might be behind the killings.
The script for ‘Sliver’ is based on a book by Ira Levin, the author of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’, ‘The Stepford Wives’, ‘A Kiss Before Dying’, ‘The Boys from Brazil’, and even ‘Deathtrap’. This is no lightweight, and I’m sure that his original vision was more cohesive than this final product, if only based on the quality of the films that have been made of his works.
For starters, what suggests this is that the script has its fair share of horrible moments, with corny one-liners being delivered here and there, either to spruce up the trailers and/or because Eszterhas thought that he was being clever. And he’s not. It is quite clear that the film was product, not art; it wasn’t made for anything but mass consumption, to make money.
Who knows what else Eszterhas tinkered with. Whatever it is, it can’t be good.
Also, the ending had to be changed due to censorship issues that the film faced. Saddled with an NC-17 rating (which, in the hypocritically puritanical United States, is a film’s death knell), the producers reshot much of the controversial footage, thereby changing the identity of the killer in the process. Imagine that.
Bizarrely enough, although the DVD features the “Unrated cut”, it is claimed that the original footage is not featured in it. I have no idea what the differences are, but I would love to find out. Was it sexier? Or was it just different? Different isn’t always better, of course. Frankly, I actually enjoyed a few of ‘Sliver’s sexy scenes, so I’d be curious to see what was in store originally.
The worst thing is that it has nothing to do with Sharon Stone, who isn’t especially alluring here, with her bland haircut and shy character. It’s all about the way that ‘Sliver’ was shot; Philip Noyce, who made the under-rated ‘Dead Calm’, and the superb ‘Patriot Games’ and ‘Clear and Present Danger’ sure had an eye for shooting the sexy stuff. His direction, overall, was pretty good.
If anything, Sharon Stone brings to the film her acting chops, delivering one of my favourite performances of hers, with many subtle touches along the way – giving Carly a sensitivity and frailty that we rarely see in her characters. It’s easy to forget, though, given how poor the end result is, but I was pleased with her take on Carly. (I should note that I’m likely alone in thinking this: she was nominated for a Razzie for her performance!).
As for the two male leads, William Baldwin and Tom Berenger, I hated their performances then and I hate them now. Berenger may not be at fault because it’s mostly the character that sucks, and the way that he’s set up, but William Baldwin tries to be mysterious and fails miserably, turning his part into an anesthetized creep. I’m sure that truly magnetic actors could have made more of these roles.
But, honestly, I”m mostly going to blame this film on Joe Eszterhas, who not only belched the script, but executive-produced the film. You can tell, too, because his sleazy touch is apparent: even the soundtrack is filled with the same dark music found in another of his masterpieces, ‘Showgirls‘, something that’s totally inappropriate here. Despite my love of ‘Basic Instinct’, I have no love of Eszterhas.
Anyway, ‘Sliver’ isn’t exactly a masterpiece, but it has its moments; it’s certainly not as bad as I thought it was back then. But I would be curious to know what the film could have been, either by seeing the uncensored version, which no doubt was closer to the filmmakers’ intention, or by seeing a comparison of it with the original novel.
There is potential in ‘Sliver’, but in its current form it’s nothing more than the first barb in the downward-spiraling careers of a once-promising actress and a infamously successful screenwriter.
Date of viewing: April 29, 2013
This is a coincidence: I watched Sliver again on Saturday.
I’d say, on balance, that it’s quite a good film. Ms Stone’s acting was first rate. My biggest problem was with the logic of the plot. How could anyone contrive to have an entire building wired for video and keep it a secret? It’s just not possible IMHO. Also, the previous murders remaining unsolved seemed unlikely to me.
That is a fortuitous coincidence, Rob! Hey, I’m glad I’m not alone in appreciating something about this film. 🙂
I think what bothers me the most about the wiring is that no one’s ever “stumbled” upon a camera or wire inadvertently and brought this secret out in the open. But I figured that it was all installed during the building’s construction, and money will pay for silence. So that part didn’t bother me.
Perhaps the book would shed more light on the matter, on how they got away with it.