Monday, March 12, 2007



"The film wastes its predictable but promising premise and quickly degenerates into virtual absurdity." – THE TIME OUT FILM GUIDE


Somewhere out in Cowtown, USA the government is storing hazardous waste material which manages to leak its way into the local milk supply. After a few weeks of guzzling this goo, the local citizenry begin to lose their ability to control their impulses, acting on the first thought that comes into their minds. This is bad news, both for the locals and the visiting married couple who just happen to be in town that week.


IMPULSE is another one of those movies where you end up thinking, “What a great idea. How could they have messed it up so badly?”

Think about the premise for a minute. An entire community exposed to a strange chemical suddenly and totally begins to disregard all the established social rules of our culture and starts to act on those first impulses we normally suppress. How do you take an idea like that and turn it into an hour and a half bore-fest?

Well first you hire Graham Baker to direct it. He was the man who gave us great cinematic treats like OMEN III: THE FINAL CONFLICT and the unbelievable BORN TO RIDE, a WWII motorcycle movie starring John Stamos from TV’s Full House. Then you throw in a script that is slow, slow, slooooooow. I’m not kidding; there is a breathtaking scene in this movie that lasts nearly seven minutes in which a character… walks through town. If you ever wanted to know exactly how long seven minutes can feel, then by all means, watch IMPULSE. In fairness, the script does give some half-hearted attempts at bringing the idea to life (a man decides to relieve himself on a car, a doctor performs some impromptu euthanasia, etc.), but it all comes off as a just a little bit too... tame. I'm not advocating that the film should have been 90 minutes of unadulterated debauchery, but just imagine handing this premise and a decent budget to the likes of Ken Russell or John Waters and you can see why the film is frustrating.

Another thing that is equally frustrating about this movie, especially to someone with a religious bent, is that not one single character exhibits a "good" action as their first impulse. Did none of these people pay attention in Sunday School? Based on the setting in the movie, there had to at least be a small Methodist or Lutheran church somewhere in town, and the last time I checked neither of those denominations were preaching "Hate Thy Neighbor". I mean, come on, if you've got seven minutes of screen time to devote to a walking scene, you can spare a few seconds to show someone acting on an altruistic impulse.

In his Catholic Dictionary, Fr. John Hardon defines Love simply as the act of willing good to someone else. If that’s true, then a God-like love is not about feeling okay about someone else, or even liking them for that matter. As the Catholic Encyclopedia puts it, Christian love “is at times intensely emotional, and frequently reacts on our sensory faculties, still it properly resides in the rational will.” In short, love in the Christian sense is a conscious choice. And when Jesus bluntly states in Matthew 22, "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.", it's probably a pretty good indication that we need to try and make it our first choice. Even if we're stuck in a bad movie.


Viewing love as a choice rather than a feeling can be difficult to swallow because most people act in such a way that makes it pretty hard to “will good” for them. And, let's face it, it's likely that we even act "unlovable" ourselves sometimes. Hard to believe, I know, but true. This is probably why we've been given the responsibility to "choose" love rather than "feel" love, because even at our worst, God loves us and wants "good" for us for our own sake. Can we really call ourselves Christians and do any less for the sake of others?


Wm. said...
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Wm. said...

Altruistic behavior as a first impulse is less likely if you believe that man is inherently evil and is fighting this side of himself constantly. Not that I subscribe to that but there are some that do