Film Review: Impulse (1990)

in #aaalast year


Sondra Locke was best known as the long term on screen and real life partner of Clint Eastwood, later also for their acrimonious split that would turn her into some sort of feminist icon im Hollywood. While still with Eastwood, Locke started her directorial career. Her best known film was 1990 action thriller Impulse.

The protagonist, played by Theresa Russell, is Lottie Mason, woman who employs her good looks and acting ability as way to earn living on mean streets of Los Angeles. She is actually LAPD undercover officer, specialised as posing as prostitute and setting trap for sex fiends and other criminals to get arrested for various crimes. Despite the danger and her sleazy and sexually harassing boss Joe Morgan (played by George Dzundza), she actually likes her job and even confesses to her police therapist Dr. Gardner (played by Lynne Thigpen) that she gets excited and fantasises of taking money from men for real. Opportunity to cross that line will come when ambitious young prosecutor Stan Harris (played by Jeff Fahey) recruits her for complicated sting operation against major drug dealers. The planned arrest of minor delaer Frank Munoff (played by Charles McCaughan) goes wrong and ends with bloody shoot out. Soon afterwards, with her adrenaline still pumping she goes to bar where one of patrons (played by Shawn Elliott) flashes money and offers some of it if she is to have sex with him. Acting on impulse, she agrees and follows the man to his luxurious home. Before anything happens, the man gets killed and Lottie is left in position of witness or potential suspect for murder, as well as some ethical dilemmas about victim’s key to deposit box containing large amount of money.

Based on the story by John De Marco, script for Impulse was written by Leigh Chapman, former actress who switched her career into screenwriting and whose speciality was, somewhat uncharacteristically, action genre. This and Locke as director was enough for some critics to brand this film as feminist or, at least pseudo-feminist. Impulse functions as such in the first part, when the protagonist is introduced by both being able to use her femininity and action hero at the same time, hardened both by criminal scum that encounters at the street and her slimy boss (effectively played by veteran character actor George Dzundza). The script also very realistically shows how her work can affect her private life and lead to blurring the lines between right and wrong. Locke as director does a solid job, with dynamic style and most of the scenes taking place at night, often combining “noirish” story with very 1980s tropes of major criminals having fine clothes and other signals of wealth that make them indistinguishable from yuppies. In the second part, however, Impulse begins to fall apart due to the “clever” twist that almost insults the viewer’s intelligence by having the protagonist accidentally meet exactly the person she was connected to her case. What follows is the lame, conventional and relatively easy-to-solve murder mystery. Obligatory romantic subplot between Lottie and Stan doesn’t help either, although Jeff Fahey plays his thankless role of film’s flawed moral anchor well. Theresa Russell, on the other hand, manages to carry this film above mediocrity with her strong performance in one of her last starring roles, making Impulse recommendable despite its flaws.

RATING: 6/10 (++)

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Critic: AA

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