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Video Reviews

MPAA Rating
Credits
Genre
Drama
Cast
Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Ethan Powell; Cuba Gooding, Jr. as Theo Caulder; Donald Sutherland as Ben Hillard; Maura Tierney as Powell's abandoned adult daughter
Director
Jon Turteltaub
Distributor
Touchstone Pictures
Reviewer
Bob Waliszewski
Instinct

Instinct

After years of living with gorillas in the mountains of Rwanda, professor Ethan Powell considers these primates to be his family. So when poachers begin killing his hairy friends, Dr. Powell comes to their defense, killing two men and wounding several others in the process. As a result, Powell is convicted for murder and is imprisoned in Africa for a year. Eventually extradited to the U.S., a now mute (by choice) Powell overcomes his guards in the Miami airport. When quickly recaptured, he is sent to a prison for the criminally insane. Enter Theo Caulder. Looking ahead to how this case might advance his career, the ambitious psychiatric resident approaches his professional mentor, Ben Hillard, about working with this professor-turned-murderer. Caulder wants to get into his head, find the roots of his violence, get him to speak again and lead him on a road to rehabilitation. But there's a twist. Who's helping whom? As it turns out, Powell is the teacher, Caulder the student. What Caulder discovers (according to the filmmaker) is that man is destroying the planet by being the dominant specie and that mankind can return to a more peaceful existence by spending time with relatives of his evolutionary past (gorillas).

Positive Elements: Although Caulder knows he stands to benefit from a book deal down the road, he genuinely cares about his patients. And not just Powell. In an early scene, Caulder counsels a woman who believes the Pope has been kidnapped. He also fights injustice throughout the prison system. At one point, he risks professional sanction when he battles to overturn a guard-allowed practice that permits the prison bully to steal outdoor privileges from his weaker inmates. Caulder also arranges a tearful reunion between Powell and his daughter.

Spiritual Content: There is an underlying message that man is a product of macro- evolution, that taking dominion of the earth (civilization) is evil and that man would be better off attempting a return to ancient tribal living.

Sexual Content: None.

Violent Content: Although not glamorized, the violence is graphic and frequent. In one session, Powell, who has a very short fuse, overpowers Caulder and, with arm tightly around his neck, threatens to strangle him if he does not "correctly" answer a philosophical question. Gorillas are shot and poachers are beaten, two killed. Powell nearly strangles a prison bully with a chain and violently reacts to a guard's abuse. Prisoners are beaten by guards. One grisly scene features a prisoner dying after repeatedly smashing his own bloodied and beaten head against a wall.

Crude or Profane Language: One blasphemous use of the Lord's name ("Christ"), a couple of f-words, s-words, and several other crudities punctuate the film's dialogue.

Drug and Alcohol Content: Caulder, on more than one occasion, frequents a bar for drinks. But drunkenness is never seen or suggested.

Other Negative Elements: A tearful reuniting of father and daughter is quickly forgotten when, as the film ends, Dr. Powell returns to the Rwandan jungle to search for his gorilla "family." In addition to offensive material, the film is at many points simply unbelievable. Overbearing guards in one scene are docile in another. Prison authorities allow Powell to go to a zoo to further his rehabilitation. Caulder is given almost unlimited and eventually private access to the excessively violent Powell.

Summary: Tone down the violence and drop the handful of obscenities and this film could have received a PG rating. But even then, it wouldn't be worth the price of admission. Particularly because of its full-fledged endorsement of evolution. As one reviewer for CNN Interactive wrote, "Hopkins' appearance in this film is the greatest waste of a natural resource since the oil spill from the Exxon Valdez."

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