The new straight-to-video erotic thriller Impulse, written and directed by Charles T. Kanganis and starring Willa Ford, certainly has the right impulse when it opens on three topless women writhing about. Ample nudity ensues, too, meaning that the movie — about a game of awakened, lusty, domestic role-play gone awry — certainly hits its target quotient of bared bosoms.
The story centers on Claire Dennison (erstwhile pop singer and Playmate Ford, below, also of Dancing with the Stars), a beautiful, sensuous advertising executive who is desperate to arouse the desires of her stuffy, slightly older psychiatrist husband, Jonathan (Angus Macfadyen, of Braveheart and the last two Saw pictures), as well as start a family (goals that seem somewhat at odds, but hey, whatever). To further her desire for spark and reconnection, Claire devises a fantasy role-play game involving dress-up (for a sexy clip, click here). After a rebuffed attempt, Jonathan — who always seems to be cooking — acknowledges that there’s been a reduction in the passion department, and cedes to Claire’s idea to spice things up. After Jonathan takes the bait in one encounter, though, things become more complicated. It’s not long before Claire realizes that she’s playing a dangerous game of seduction with someone very familiar, yet also completely unknown — a man, Simon Phillips (also Macfadyen), who looks exactly like her husband. Whoops. Desperate to end the affair, she tells the stranger the game is over, and yet it seems the drama has just begun.
Multi-hyphenate Kanganis (Intent to Kill) infuses Impulse with some decent production value, to the degree that he can. And he also doesn’t shy away from the perverted elements of the conceit, having Macfadyen’s character, umm, smell his fingers after manually stimulating Claire in one scene, and also intimating much more when Claire furiously brushes her teeth after an illicit encounter. So there’s some skeevy titillation here.
Unfortunately, Ford (whose left arm-band tattoo, above, can be glimpsed here through concealment make-up) isn’t necessarily the right actress upon which to hang this material; she’s got the right set of buns, but less convincing assertiveness (“What’s going on out there is way beyond our comprehension — it’s genius!” she says in the scene that introduces her character, meaning to show us her brassy occupational super-competence) and imperiled sympathy. She’s not awful, though — just not very consistent. And it’s worth pointing out, too, that Macfadyen, for whom the movie is really a showcase, succumbs to a lot of the same ping-pong variance that Ford does. For a lot of the running time, one feels this is mostly a matter of a production schedule crunch — that with more time for extra takes and set-ups, this schlocky-fun premise could have been given a real kick in the pants, and made into something a bit more interesting. Then the movie concludes with exactly the sort of stand-off (a gun, mistaken identity) one imagines given the parameters of the story established from the second act on, and the raison d’etre for Impulse, obscured momentarily, again becomes clear: boobs.
Housed in a regular Amray case, Impulse comes presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, with Dolby digital 5.1 audio tracks in English, French and Portuguese, and a stereo track in Spanish. Since tales of sexual intrigue translate so well, there are also optional subtitles in English and five foreign languages. I guess Ford — who’s starring in a forthcoming tele-biopic of Anna Nicole Smith — may yet get some play internationally. A gallery of a dozen trailers, including for The Tattooist, The Good Night, Untraceable and Outpost, is the only bonus feature. For another clip, click here; to purchase the movie via Amazon, click here. C+ (Movie) C- (Disc)