George Dzundza

The Beast (1988, Kevin Reynolds)

The Beast has a lot going for it, so its failure to connect–which is wholly director Reynolds’s fault–is a bit of a disappointment. The second half of the film has an accelerated pace. While the whole thing takes place over a couple days, the second half is an odd combination of summary and real time. Reynolds can’t pull it off. Peter Boyle’s fine editing can’t hide it either.

And some of the problems are writer William Mastrosimone’s fault. After establishing this wonderful antagonism between George Dzundza (as a Russian tank commander in Afghanistan who starts to lose it) and Jason Patric (his sane, and humanist, subordinate), Mastrosimone fails at establishing the camaraderie between Patric and Steven Bauer (as a Mujahideen). Patric and Bauer are both good enough to create said camaraderie and Reynolds certainly tries to engage it. But then acting and directing aren’t enough and the relationship needs the script and Mastrosimone’s too busy playing Patric’s dimwitted fellow tankers, played by Stephen Baldwin and Don Harvey, for laughs. It’s strange, especially since the first half of the film is able to balance it all out.

All of the acting in The Beast is strong. Dzundza gets the flashiest role, but Patric’s great, Bauer’s surprisingly strong (especially since once he and Patric cross paths, he takes a backseat in all his scenes). Baldwin, Harvey (especially Harvey). The supporting cast–Erick Avari, Shoshi Marciano, Kabir Bedi–all real good. When The Beast peaks and starts to slide in the third act, it isn’t the fault of the actors.

Reynolds shoots either close-ups or long shots. Whenever he does a medium shot, it’s a surprise; he’s composing for the eventual home video, pan and scan release, which is simultaneously unfortunate and also the only way he could have done The Beast. The desolate backdrops and the close-ups of the tank’s moving parts set to Mark Isham’s minimalist score work towards a certain transcendence.

Except, of course, Douglas Milsome’s photography is shockingly flat. Coupled with Reynolds’s impatience, the film’s visual sensibilities works counter to Isham’s score and the acting tone.

The Beast makes an intense impression throughout, but not much of one as the end credits begin to roll. It’s very close to being successful.



Directed by Kevin Reynolds; screenplay by William Mastrosimone, based on his play; director of photography, Douglas Milsome; edited by Peter Boyle; music by Mark Isham; production designer, Kuli Sander; produced by John Fiedler; released by Columbia Pictures.

Starring Jason Patric (Koverchenko), George Dzundza (Daskal), Steven Bauer (Taj), Stephen Baldwin (Golikov), Don Harvey (Kaminski), Erick Avari (Samad), Kabir Bedi (Akbar), Shoshi Marciano (Sherina) and Chaim Girafi (Moustafa).

Impulse (1990, Sondra Locke)

Impulse is somewhat interesting as a piece of pseudo-feminist filmmaking. Not to suggest Locke’s a poser. It’s just her intentions can’t compete with her script.

The script appears to have come from two actors turned writers. Leigh Chapman seems to have been brought in to female-up the script.

There are some really nice little moments, like suitor Jeff Fahey being turned away by Russell because she doesn’t need the male comforting. There’s an effective scene concerning their differences.

But then there’s an awkward love scene; it’s hard not to think was simply put in as a love scene directed by a female director sort of as critic bait–to give them something to talk about it. It’s a useless scene.

Russell’s decent, nothing more. There’s a lot of focus on her hair.

Her character’s constantly undercover and wearing a wire and her superior officer (George Dzundza in a bad performance) is supposed to be monitoring the wire. But the wire never works, so she’s always put in these dangerous situations and he never worries about them because–well, fifty-fifty between him trusting her ability and his dislike for her because she rejects his advances.

There’s a whole film in just that conflict… a better one.

Fahey’s fine. Alan Rosenberg’s funny as his assistant. Lynne Thigpen is good as Russell’s psychiatrist. Nick Savage turns up to remind the viewer “Hill Street Blues” is more realistic than eighties cop movies.

Impulse is dismissible, which it never should have been.



Directed by Sondra Locke; screenplay by John DeMarco and Leigh Chapman, based on a story by DeMarco; director of photography, Dean Semler; edited by John W. Wheeler; music by Michel Colombier; production designer, William A. Elliot; produced by Andre Morgan and Albert S. Ruddy; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Theresa Russell (Lottie Mason), Jeff Fahey (Stan), George Dzundza (Lt. Joe Morgan), Alan Rosenberg (Charley Katz), Nicholas Mele (Rossi), Eli Danker (Dimarjian), Charles McCaughan (Frank Munoff), Lynne Thigpen (Dr. Gardner), Shawn Elliott (Tony Peron), Angelo Tiffe (Luke), Christopher Lawford (Steve) and Nick Savage (Edge).

Scroll to Top