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Striking Distance
cast: Bruce Willis, Sarah Jessica Parker, Dennis Farina, Tom Sizemore, and Robert Pastorelli

director: Rowdy Herrington

102 minutes (18) 1993
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
Sony blu-ray Region B retail

RATING: 5/10
reviewed by Christopher Geary
SPOILER ALERT!
Since he moved up from television series Moonlighting (1985-9), into the world of movies with Die Hard (1988), Bruce Willis has remained one of Hollywood's most bankable stars. Except for a few random misfires - Bonfire Of The Vanities (1990), Colour Of Night (1994), and the likes of Hudson Hawk (1991), Last Man Standing (1996), and Breakfast Of Champions (1999) - three Willis vehicles which found only cult appreciation - the majority of his pictures have been worth seeing, at least, even if they failed to detonate satisfactorily as box-office record-breakers.

Not unlike Willis' heroic cop of Harold Becker's Mercury Rising (1998), Striking Distance has Pittsburgh detective Tom Hardy shunned by colleagues on the force after he testified against his partner for police brutality, and claimed that an elusive serial killer in the 'Polish Hill' case was a cop. Although he's an outcast, and exiled to patrol boat duty with the 'river dogs' Hardy still holds the moral high ground like Willis' hero in Tony Scott's The Last Boy Scout (1991), stubbornly maintaining old-fashioned principles - "Loyalty above all else, except honour" - as espoused by his father (John Mahoney, best known for playing Martin Crane in TV sitcom Frasier, 1993 - 2004).

Nothing says 'action thriller' quite like starting the movie with a car chase, and this picture by Rowdy Herrington (perhaps best known for Road House, also director of James Spader in Jack's Back, I Witness, and The Stickup) opens with police pursuit of a criminal - who manages to escape but not before leaving Hardy injured from a crash, and his dad shot dead. The annual policemen's ball establishes family groups in the uniformed and homicide divisions, and Hardy is not welcome at the shindigs where his cousin Danny (Tom Sizemore), and Uncle Nick (Dennis Farina), only just manage to keep the peace. Hardy's new partner on the river is Jo Christman (Sarah Jessica Parker, five years away from TV stardom, in Sex And The City), who quickly falls into bed with our lonesome hero, although her real agenda is investigating Hardy. Yes, she's a detective from the Internal Affairs department, working for the District Attorney (Andre Braugher, Homicide: Life On The Street) who suspects Hardy will start his own illegal enquiry into a new spate of murders, seemingly copycat killings that only Hardy believes are connected to the 'closed case' of Polish Hill crimes. It's all linked to the apparent suicide of Danny's brother Jimmy (Robert Pastorelli, best known for the US version of British TV show Cracker), Hardy's former partner who was convicted of brutality charges. Jimmy jumped off a bridge, prior to sentencing, and his body was never found...

Despite some amiable comedy sequences that border on parody of American crime-drama clichés, and a few weakly suspenseful moments of mild terror for the killer's new batch of victims, including heroine Jo, this film is certainly not one of the star's best efforts. A potentially great cast, which includes supporting roles by Tom Atkins and Brion James, are wasted on what is, essentially, shamelessly gumball scripting, flailing about in muddy waters before wallowing in the supposedly clever twist of a histrionic climax, where OTT psychopathic behaviour defies any requirement for a logical conclusion to events. If the villain's crazy and the cops are corrupt, Striking Distance ends with flashback revelations (about what really happened) so it has no need for common sense explanations or even Hitchcockian styled rationalisations.
NEXT

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