Instinct (1999)



Hannibal Lecter, meet Tarzan, Lord of the Apes.

Sad but true, that’s all it takes to boil down Instinct, a curious blend of thriller and feel-good prison movie that manages to somehow be neither.

The story of Ethan Powell (Hopkins), a highly intelligent doctor (sound familiar yet?) and primatologist who opts to live with the gorillas in Rwanda for a couple of years, and goes a bit primal on us. Several years later, Doc Powell is extradited after murdered a few Rwandans. Oh, and he won’t speak any more. So they bring in hotshot psychiatrist resident Theo Caulder (Gooding) to deconstruct Powell and bring him back into the fold.

Here’s where we throw in a little Cuckoo’s Nest (in fact, several of the inmates of Powell’s prison seem lifted from Cuckoo’s Nest entirely!). I half-expected to see Chief along the way.

Despite the movie’s pretense, there’s little mystery along the way. We know all along who gets killed and why. If you can’t figure it out, you need to go see Star Wars again. But aside from some lightly humorous moments, Instinct is largely predictable and tiresome, and it isn’t likely to click with many audiences. And let me just add that Maura Tierney (Powell’s daughter) has always rubbed me the wrong way.

Instinct is not a bad movie. It’s just not a terribly well-made one. Regardless, I’m sure I won’t be the only one (accidentally) calling it ‘Instink’.

Hopkins brings out the monkey inside.