You're the Gorilla My Dreams
Review by Ross Anthony

Perhaps, like the human race itself, "Instinct," far from flawless is nonetheless seductively imperious, and yes, as lovable as a perfect paradox.

Though difficult to accept when seen on the screen for the first time, Anthony Hopkins plays a brutal savage (Ethan Powell). Cuba Gooding Jr. is Dr. Caulder, the star psychiatric resident. Seems anthropologist Ethan Powell spent a few too many nights out with the gorillas -- a few dead Rwandans later, he's extradited to the U.S. for trial. In the meantime, Caulder does his best to free Powell ... from himself, from his insanity .. well at least from Harmony Bay, your stereotypically violent psychiatric prison.

It's a good film, but here's what it does poorly: 1) Its introductory special effects (freezes/strobe-slowmo/reverse color) are cliché and anti-dramatic. 2) Sutherland's Hollywood line, "He lives with the animals ... becomes one .. how does that happen?" sounds like an actor's line, not a psychiatrist's. Is it really that unclear anyway? Still, the over-dramatic question sets up the rest of the film rather nicely. 3) Once the cocky Caulder takes the case, he boasts, "What if I can get him to speak?" The film inflates this question with nothing more than hot air since we had not been shown even one incident of Powell refusing to speak. Alas, Caulder's line falls like a feather in a vacuum. 4) Other relationships beg development. Powell's daughter, a fine character, is used only peripherally. Then there are Powell's fellow inmates, although Caulder was strapped into consulting with them, we see only dabs of interaction. 5) Gooding's character is set up as the sharp buttocks-kissing corporate climber, yet we witness him berate those he works with at Harmony Bay. Although, it's fun, it isn't Caulder. The actor is directed out of character simply for dramatic effect. 6) And lastly, Powell's personality is changed in only 2 years of "hangin'" in the jungle. I would have expected 2 decades.

Okay, now the good stuff: 1) "Instinct" tells a great story that stands steadfast to its sharply pointed question. "Who is the real savage?" 2) Two excellent performers. 3) Solid focused dialogue. Here are a few examples: Powell, "There's more danger in any city in the world than in the forest." Caulder, "I never quit ... even when I'm doing something really stupid." Caulder, "Your father may be very ill." Powell's Daughter, "Oh really, I thought he was just in a bad mood." 4) And of course, there were times when the heavy dramatics actually worked. 5) Lastly, the music. It's an excellent driving score.

At the end of the day, "Instinct" has a pounding heart so powerful that it makes its flaws drop like ticks off the hide of a charging Silverback gorilla.

Starring Anthony Hopkins and Cuba Gooding Jr.
Directed by Jon Turteltaub.
Screenplay by Gerald DiPego. Produced by Michael Taylor and Barbara Boyle at Touchstone/Spyglass.


Copyright © 1999 Ross Anthony, currently based in Los Angeles, has scripted and shot documentaries, music videos, and shorts in 35 countries across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. For more reviews visit:

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Last Modified: Saturday, 16-Sep-2006 08:07:56 PDT