Funny, suspenseful, surprisingly lyrical moments like this could tickle adult auds -- if "Acting on Impulse" can slash its way out of the midnight-cult ghetto.

Funny, suspenseful, surprisingly lyrical moments like this could tickle adult auds — if “Acting on Impulse” can slash its way out of the midnight-cult ghetto.

Acting on Impulse

(Action satire -- Color)

Production

A Spectacor Films production. Produced by David Peters. Executive producers, Joe Cohen, David Newlon, Jon Kramer, David Lewine. Line producer, Jat Sedrish. Directed by Sam Irvin. Screenplay, Mark Pittman, Alan Moskowitz, from a story by Sol Weingarten.

Crew

Camera (color), Dean Lent; editors, James Mitchell, Neil Grieve; music, Dan Licht; production design, Gary Randall; costume design, Jill Ohanneson; sound, Giovanni Di Simoni; assistant director, Adam C. Taylor; casting, Gale Salus. Reviewed at the Seattle Film Festival (Neptune Theater), June 3, 1993. Running time: 92 min.

With

Susan Gittes ... Linda Fiorentino Paul Stevens ... C. Thomas Howell Cathy Thomas ... Nancy Allen Gail Black ... Judith Hoag Dave Byers ... Adam Ant Yoram Sussman ... Patrick Bachau Detective Stubbs ... Isaac Hayes Brunop ... Paul Bartel Leroy ... Don Most John ... Miles O'Keeffe With: Dick Sargent, Charles Lane, Mary Woronov, Zelda Rubinstein, Nicholas Sadler, Peter Lupus, Kim McGuire, Cassandra Peterson, Brinke Stevens, Michael Talbot, Robert Alan Golub, Cliff Dorfman, Craig Shoemaker, Scott Thompson Stevens. After an awkward start, "Acting on Impulse" accelerates into a nonstop delight, poking affectionate fun at the cheap-thrills sex 'n' gore genre while creating believable characters and original twists. Too flippant for action auds , and a tad in-jokey for general tastes, pic will premiere on Showtime in July. Linda Fiorentino toplines as Susan Gittes, a self-described "scream queen" buckling from the weight of too many Z-grade chainsaw epics. Already known for erratic behavior, she casually brushes off her latest director (Paul Bartel) and her boyfriend-manager (Adam Ant) in the middle of a quickie shoot, but when her slimy producer (Patrick Bachau) turns up dead in her Airstream trailer, the police are called in. Checking into a deluxe hotel outside of L.A. (and using the name DeeDee Slaughter), the on-the-lam actress sidles up to Paul (C. Thomas Howell), a straight-arrow salesman who subsequently struggles to remain faithful to his left-behind fiancee. In town for a pharmaceutical convention -- although not the kind Susan usually enjoys -- Paul also hooks up with Cathy (Nancy Allen), a goody-two-shoes saleswoman apparently looking for an opportunity to loosen up. Once this unlikely trio is in place, the story takes off with edgy precision, powered by sexual and value-system tensions among the three. There's also a snappy subplot with Tom Wright (the script capitalizes on his resemblance to Sugar Ray Leonard) as a buttoned-down buppie who becomes Paul's biggest rival, and nominal nods to the thriller theme, with Susan/DeeDee stalked by an obsessed fan while Paul remains ignorant of her identity and alleged crime. This latter aspect is less effective, but it gives helmer Sam Irvin a chance to intercut droll scenes with Isaac Hayes as an unflappable homicide detective, and to indulge in a variety of red herrings and amusing side trips. With left-field curves in lensing and editing, and the note-perfect thesping of its three leads (especially Fiorentino, who makes her harsh character likable), pic really clicks because it's a parody that remains loyal to its subject while establishing its own smart identity. Occasionally, all its best elements come together brilliantly, as in the much-anticipated carnal encounter between intermittently meek Paul and definitely dangerous Susan. Highly charged by any standard, the scene takes on "Basic Instinct" overtones and breaks new erotic ground when audience sees (and Paul doesn't) the actress surreptitiously fishing under the bed for ... a condom.
Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more