I hesitate to instantly, right out of the gate, damn a movie with faint praise, but the recently released to Blu-ray Bruce Willis action flick Striking Distance… isn't bad. At least, in hindsight it isn't. Oh sure, the movie wasn't well-received and even today isn't memorable (except maybe for the appearance of Robert Pastorelli, who, to me, will always be Eldin), but it's not the disaster some would have you believe.
Directed by Rowdy Harrington (Road House), Striking Distance has Bruce Willis as Detective Tom Hardy, a member of the Pittsburgh police. The outset of the film finds Hardy having "ratted out" his cousin, Detective Jimmy Detillo (Pastorelli) for mistreating a suspect. Hardy is also busy trying to track down a serial murderer. In pretty short order, the film finds Detillo jumping off a bridge in order to commit suicide and the serial killer arrested.
The main story of the film actually gets going at that point, picking up two years after those events. Hardy now works river rescue, has a serious drinking problem, and neither commands nor receives any respect from other officers. However, someone is committing murders similar to the ones from two years ago, and taunting Hardy (so Hardy believes) with the bodies. An obsessed Hardy goes after this new killer full bore, not caring whom he leaves in his wake.
All in all, it's pretty generic stuff. Willis turns in the sort of solid, down-on-his-luck cop performance that we've all gotten used to seeing from him (think John McClane-lite). Sarah Jessica Parker appears as Hardy's new river rescue partner and love interest, in a role in which she seems completely out of place having since done Sex and the City. She's not bad here, it just is an odd place to see her.
In fact, Parker isn't the only big-name talent that appears in the film. The cast of supporting characters is full of well-known actors including: Dennis Farina, John Mahoney, Andre Braugher, Timothy Busfield, and Tom Sizemore. Each and every one of them delivers in the film.
Where then, if the cast is good and the notion behind the film intriguing does the thing falter? Ostensibly, the film is supposed to be about the search for the new killer, but the search never really gets going. There is no mystery that unravels, the film just proceeds until the final scenes, where, miraculously, the killer is revealed. To that point in the film though, there are almost a half-dozen different people who could have been the killer, it almost feels as though the writers – Harrington and Marty Kaplan (The Distinguished Gentleman) – just chose a name at random and then did the big reveal explaining how all the pieces fit together. The film clocks in at just under one hour and forty-five minutes, and feels as though had they shot for a full two hours the filmmakers could have concocted a far more satisfying, deep, story. That, however, may have lowered the percentage of the film in which there are chases, curses, shoot-outs, and/or explosions.
The Blu-ray release of Striking Distance, just like the plot, is a bare-bones affair. There are no special features included, and while it looks and sounds good, there is nothing about it that is truly memorable. The print is free of imperfections, the black levels good, and the 5.1 channel audio crisp-sounding and well-mixed. Some may complain about the amount of grain visible in the print, but I choose to see that as an attempt at giving the movie a "gritty" feel as opposed to an issue in transfer.
In the end, I find myself leaving Striking Distance exactly where I entered – it's not god-awful. One could go out and see better movies, but one could also go out and see far worse. The cast is good, everyone delivers a decent (or better) performance, and searching out a serial killer can make for an interesting film. In the case of Striking Distance, it should have made for a far better one than it did.