(Sondra Locke, USA, 1990)


Sondra Locke’s underrated Impulse (1990) offers a model example of the modern Female Gothic thriller.

Theresa Russell plays an undercover cop. A bit fed up one night with working out the intricacies of her meaningful, committed love relationship – to another cop – she decides one night, on an impulse, to do something decadent and reckless.

So she goes to a tawdry bar, and lets herself be picked up by an extravagantly rich and attractive man, a guy who promises to fulfil all her dreams of escape. In fact, she is pretending to be, in this fantasy scenario, a high-class prostitute, because that’s what she pretends to be when she’s an undercover cop on the job.

Back at the man’s palatial apartment, Russell looks at herself in the ritzy bathroom mirror and asks that classic question: “What am I doing here?” Then she heads purposefully for the door, but on the way out hears a gunshot sound from downstairs. Suddenly, Theresa’s would-be one-nighter has landed her deep into a mess of murder, crime and corruption.

Her attempts to cover up her inadvertent presence at the scene of this crime can only lead to the ultimate interrogation – the interrogation of her dirty desires, by the very cop that she normally dates.

If Impulse is a mystery film, the mystery eventually centres on the woman herself – why she wants what she wants, and whether or not she should want it.

© Adrian Martin January 2001

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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