A few days ago, I rented a film at my local video store. The store happens to be a chain of very high end video stores, and as such it carries a lot of new releases. I’ve been wanting to see this particular film for a while, as the trailer looked like a promising thriller. I finished watching the film, and I was not fully satisfied with the film. There were a lot of obvious tries for cooler and more cutting edge effects, and the actual story itself left a lot of gaps and loose ends. I felt like the film could have done a lot more to delve deeper and provide a more complete and satisfying experience.

“Bad Impulse” is a thriller that isn’t very good, but tramples all over those who wish to criticize it for its flaws. The plot trudges along without any real interest, and it’s hard to care about anything that happens because the characters are so poorly defined. The lead actress, Natalie (Holliday Grainger), has a terrible Southern accent and repeatedly mispronounces her words. The supporting cast, which includes Tom Felton and James Marsden, are wooden at best, and the dialogue is clunky and stock. It’s irritating.

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During this time of year, many people’s thoughts turn to their family. Apart from being together (which is tough for some at the moment), the matriarch or patriarch is concerned with keeping the house crew secure and cozy in their warm beds. The Sharpes (mainly the father) aren’t dealing with a planet-killing comet, unlike the Garrity family in this week’s other big film, Greenland. His fears come from the potential of a stealthy intruder invading at night. It’s too bad he’s unaware of this statement from one of the founding fathers. Ben Franklin is a famous American patriot. “Those who would sacrifice basic Liberty in exchange for a smidgeon of transient safety deserve neither Liberty nor safety.” Nonetheless, it’s doubtful that he thought that his concerns would inspire his whole “unit” to succumb to a negative inclination.

The tale opens with the wholesome, apparently happy Sharpe family outside their two-storey luxury home on a beautiful day (well, really after a horrifying incident involving murder and suicide). Christine (Sonya Walger) is trying to persuade her sixteen-year-old daughter Angela (Abbi Ford) and her two sons, fourteen-year-old Mike (Nicholas Danner) and eight-year-old Sam, to go on a day trip with her (Oscar Debler). This time, their father Henry (Grant Bowler) is unable to join them. It’s a special “one-on-one” dinner with his boss tonight (perhaps a promotion). A knock at the door greets him when he gets home. It’s a middle-aged man wearing a somber black suit and cap.

Bad-Impulse-Review-Sloppy-Try-Hard-Thriller

He introduces himself as Lou Branch (Paul Sorvino) and requests to discuss the security system in his house. After the “pitch,” Branch claims it’s cutting-edge technology, but Henry needs to be going and takes his card. As the real reason for the evening is exposed, his dinner with his boss, Mr. Reilly (Dan Lauria), comes to an abrupt conclusion. The company seems to have lost a substantial amount of money as a result of a bad investment made for its biggest customer. Someone had to bear the burden of the blame, Reilly and the board agreed. So, despite a hefty “under the table” pay-off for silence, Henry storms out in anger.

He’s so enraged that he doesn’t see the gang of thugs approaching his front door as he opens it. They give Henry a severe beating, which causes him to wake up in the hospital. This makes him want to work for Branch’s security company. He, his wife, his children, and their live-in nanny/maid/cook Lucia (Stephanie Cayo) all have microchips inserted beneath their skin near their permanent ankle “bracelets” that connect with the residence’s numerous mounted wall monitors. Things return to normal gradually, but only for a short period.

Sam now enjoys squashing insects, while Mike seeks refuge in his violent “single shooter” video games to cope with many school bullies. Angela, on the other hand, is stealing and getting tattoos. Christine (the family’s only earner) is having an office affair, while Henry is furious as he starts his at-home sales career (maybe Lucia now digs this about him). Could Branch’s “tech” be anything other than home security?

The cast’s strained attempt to transcend this turgid banal tale of a self-destructing familial unit is palpable. Bowler makes an effort to “go with the flow” of his unpredictable behavior. He has to play the laid-back 80s TV dad (cue the laugh track), then he has to play the big job dinner and almost froth at the mouth. After the beating (head injury is indicated), he eases into phone sales before lashing out for no apparent reason. Then, as the severe “Daddy-monster,” Bowler seems to be returning to a gleaming riff. He tries to sell it, but it’s illogical. Walger (as Penny from TV’s “Lost” Christine) is the perfect working mom. Despite this, her professional exec persona transforms into a vengeful “Queen B,” who is jealous of her flirty aide and is prone to “company creep.” 

Angela is presented as a kind, shy girl who aspires to be the “school hunk’s” knock-out. Nonetheless, her character develops into a stereotypical teenage “B-girl” in a remake of Poison Ivy. Mike, played by Danner, has the fearful demeanor of the perfect “patsy” for the school predator. Regardless, there’s no need for him to try to bribe the bully before acting on his video game alter ego. And Debler’s Sam has no role until the conclusion of the film, when he is the kid in danger.

 

Oh, and 15 minutes in, we meet Cayo, the unofficial family member who plays a caretaker who seems to have stepped right off a fashion show runway. We’re puzzled by her relentless pursuit of him as he sleeps on the sofa, since she seems to be there simply to attract dad. The film’s “celebrity,” Sorvino, attempts to imbue Branch with a sinister spirit but comes off as a cross between Willy Loman and a terrifying 1930s school administrator (with a touch of Mitchum from Night of the Hunter). He seems to be standing dangerously on Henry’s doorstep, which makes it difficult to comprehend why he has such faith in this serious sad-eyed salesman. To make matters worse and more “artistic,” James Landry Hebert (the giddy tire deflator from Once Upon a Time in Hollywood) appears in a number of unsettling small roles, mostly leering at Angela.

Michelle Danner tries to wring some drama out of Jason Chase Tyrrell’s conventional script. Even yet, the image often seems to be “spinning its wheels” until we notice the massive “surprise” conclusion approaching from miles away. Maybe they wanted a more “edgy” version of The Shining or American Beauty. Nonetheless, it seems like an extended episode of a second-tier TV anthology series like “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” or “Tales of the Unexpected.” The picture attempts to shock and astonish, but ultimately chooses to wallow in sloppy ugliness. 

RATING: 4/10

It’s been a couple of weeks since our review of the recent thriller “Bad Impulse,” and a lot of you have been emailing us with a lot of great feedback. Many of you have given us a lot of good ideas for exciting Bad Impulse 2.0. For this week’s review, we’re going to see what Kyle’s been up to while his sister has been taking a “rest” from bad impulses.. Read more about lowest rotten tomatoes scores and let us know what you think.

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