13 July 2014 | Wuchakk
Comic book cop thriller in Pittsburgh with Bruce Willis and Sarah Jessica Parker
RELEASED IN 1993 and written/directed by Rowdy Herrington, "Striking Distance" stars Bruce Willis as Tom Hardy, a Pittsburgh detective who's demoted to river rescue. A serial killer returns after a two-year absence and bodies of beautiful women start turning up in the river, all women whom Hardy used to date! Sarah Jessica Parker is on hand as Hardy's partner on the river, Jo Christman.
The movie has a bad reputation. Roger Ebert tore it to pieces, basically saying it was too derivative and by-the-numbers, and Willis himself said he hated it. I can understand criticism to a point. The story has a melodramatic comic-book vibe, which is obvious in the opening act, almost like a TV production except with a superior cast and action scenes. But, and this is an important "but," I found myself drawn into the story & the characters and greatly enjoyed the rare Pittsburgh locations, as well as the (melo)drama and thrills. In other words, the movie is entertaining and entertainment is the name of the game.
This is a cop thriller in the manner of the Dirty Harry series, especially "The Dead Pool" (1988), except it's more comic booky and taking place in Pittsburgh rather than San Francisco. It's also reminiscent of films like "The General's Daughter" (1999). Although not technically as good as the Dirty Harry movies or "The General's Daughter" due to its cartoonish-ness, "Striking Distance" nevertheless pulled me into the lives of the characters and, for the most part, furnished the requisite thrills.
The generically-named movie (also akin to the Dirty Harry franchise) was originally called "Three Rivers," a much better title simply because it's more specific, but was changed at the last minute because the marketing department feared people would think it was a sports movie due to Three Rivers Stadium, so they switched it to "Striking Distance." Why "Striking Distance"? The first hint is at the beginning of the movie when the title card shows two electrical bolts coming out from either side of the title. Later we observe the mysterious killer using a stun gun before killing his victims and, with a stun gun, you must of course be within... striking distance!
Speaking of the killer, one element of the plot I haven't mentioned is that this is a whodunit. Someone is charged with being the killer early on but Hardy knows it's the wrong guy; he and others are sure it's a cop or ex-cop doing the killings. There are a few suspects, including Hardy himself, but I honestly was unable to guess the right person. There's another twist late in the story that also took me by surprise.
"Striking Distance" may not be exceptional and is marred by cartoonish exaggeration, but it entertains as a cop thriller and that's what's most important when it comes to these types of flicks. Plus it was shot in Pittsburgh, a refreshing change.
THE MOVIE RUNS 1 hour, 42 minutes. ADDITIONAL WRITER: Martin Kaplan.