IMPULSE, directed by Sondra Locke, is an involving and suspenseful story of a Los Angeles undercover cop. The film stars Theresa Russell as Lottie Mason, a tough but vulnerable police decoy, working for both the vice and narcotics divisions, who becomes so immersed in and affected by her
dangerous work that she fantasizes about really becoming the dodgy characters she impersonates. As the story opens, a drug deal is going down in New York. Several people are killed, but it is uncertain whether drug kingpin Tony Peron (Shawn Elliott) has come out of the fracas alive. Word of these
developments gets back to California, making an already nervous government witness against Peron even more nervous, despite the reassurances of Assistant DA Stan Harris (Jeff Fahey). Lottie and Stan end up working together on the Peron case and eventually become romantically involved. However, Lt.
Joe Morgan (George Dzundza), a police officer of questionable character and Lottie's former boy friend, is not exactly thrilled about this last development. Meanwhile, Lottie puts her life on the line almost daily, often posing as a hooker or drug addict. During one bust, the operation goes awry
and she barely gets out alive. Exhausted and shaken, she gets into her car and rushes home. But on the way, a tire goes flat, and Lottie kills time in a bar while it is being repaired. While she's nursing a drink, a handsome stranger flashing a lot of money manages to charm her into accompanying
him to his home. There, Lottie goes upstairs to freshen up, and only moments later the wealthy stranger is murdered. She manages to hide until the killer leaves, then takes an airport locker key out of the victim's coat pocket, and reports the crime anonymously. Soon it emerges that the victim was
Peron. Morgan eventually figures out that Lottie was at the crime scene and tips off Stan, who in turn confronts Lottie. It's then leaked to the press that there was an "eyewitness" to Peron's death. Hoping to catch the killer, the police stake out Lottie's house. That evening, a man carrying a
long case (we later find out he's a floral deliveryman) pulls up in front of her home, and the cops all converge on him. Meanwhile, the real killer is still at Lottie's. Alone and terrified, she shoots her would-be assassin in the dark. The wounded stalker turns out to be the government witness,
who confesses to murdering Peron. The next day, Lottie resigns and makes plans to leave town. Stopping at the airport to get the money in Peron's locker, she's accosted by Morgan, who struggles with her for the briefcase in the locker. It falls open, but only stuffing falls out. Soon Stan appears
on the scene and breaks up the fight. In the closing scene, he gives Lottie the keys to his car, which contains the drug money in the trunk. As she's about to drive away, Lottie has a change of heart and decides to stay with Stan.
Locke, Clint Eastwood's former on- and off-screen costar, who previously directed RATBOY (1986), has made a suspenseful film with interesting psychological insights. Lit in classic film noir style, IMPULSE provides the necessary action and thrills of that genre, but at the same time examines the
temptations and the excitement of living on the edge on a more intimate level. We feel as if we really know something about what makes the characters tick, and their motivations are made all the more compelling and believable through the work of the talented cast. (Violence, profanity, nudity,adult situations, sexual situations.)
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