IMPULSE. 1990. Teresa Russell, Jeff Fahey, George Dzundza, Alan Rosenberg, Nicholas Mele, Lynne Thigpen. Director: Sondra Locke.

IMPULSE Teresa Russell

   For the first thirty minutes of this movie, the type you’d see on late night cable, you’ll be tempted to dismiss this as just another “undercover-female-cop-with-an-attitude-problem” type of picture, but I think you’ll regret it if you turn it off too soon.

   After the relatively slow beginning — brief bursts of action on the streets of Los Angeles, combined with a lot of talking about various problems, including brief glimpses of Lottie’s therapy sessions with the department’s resident psychologist – things pick up in a big way.

IMPULSE Teresa Russell

   An undercover operation goes bad. There is a lot of shooting, and some guys dealing in drugs end up dead. Lottie is responsible for a couple of them. On her way home, she stops in a bar, she’s picked up by a guy with a billfold of $100 bills, and on impulse she goes to bed with him.

   Which is when the real story begins. There are some small quirks of fate involved, a la Cornell Woolrich. and some giant-sized one. This movie is solidly in the pulp-oriented, hard-boiled tradition, but with a difference. The protagonist is female, and no shrinking violet.

IMPULSE Teresa Russell

   Female, but aggressively active in the role, not passive, not a behind-the-back sort of manipulator. There are sane loose ends in the plot, I think, but in the final sixty minutes or so there’s one of the finer, more engaging mini-movies made recently that I’ve seen in a while. (There’s one well-behaved love scene, too, in which both participants seem to want to make the other party happy to be involved, as well as themselves.)

— Reprinted from Mystery*File 33, September 1991 (slightly revised).

[UPDATE] 10-24-11. I will have to see this movie again. I remember only parts of it, and I have a feeling that if I hadn’t read this review just now myself, I might not remember even those.

   Reviews are IMDB are mixed. Those leaving comments are mostly positive, and those that are say very much the same sort of things as I did. The overall rating for the film is only 5.6 out of 10, though, which suggests the possibility that some viewers who watched saw the movie were looking for something else.

   I also wonder if the fact that Impulse has a female director had more than little with the way it came out. (That’s a lie, actually. I’m not wondering.)

   I wish I’d found a copy of the scene below in color, but perhaps in black and white it will enhance the movie’s (neo)noir credentials all the more:

IMPULSE Teresa Russell