Striking Distance

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Striking Distance
Striking distance.jpg
Promotional movie poster
Directed by Rowdy Herrington
Produced by Marty Kaplan
Arnon Milchan
Written by Rowdy Herrington
Marty Kaplan
Starring
Music by Brad Fiedel
Cinematography Mac Ahlberg
Edited by Pasquale Buba
Mark Helfrich
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release dates
  • September 17, 1993 (1993-09-17)
(USA)
Running time
101 min.
Language English
Budget $30 million
Box office $24,107,867 (USA)

Striking Distance is a 1993 American action thriller film starring Bruce Willis as a Pittsburgh Police homicide detective Thomas Hardy. The film co-stars Sarah Jessica Parker, Dennis Farina, and Tom Sizemore. It was directed by Rowdy Herrington and written by Herrington and Marty Kaplan. The film was shot on location throughout Pittsburgh; its early title was Three Rivers.

Plot[edit]

In 1991, Thomas Hardy (Bruce Willis), a Pittsburgh Police homicide detective, has just broken the Blue Code of Silence by informing on his partner and cousin, Jimmy Detillo (Robert Pastorelli), for using excessive force on a suspect. He attends the Policemen's Ball with his father, Vince Hardy (John Mahoney). However, the ball is postponed after a police scan goes out indicating a serial killer nicknamed the Polish Hill Strangler has been spotted on the 31st Street Bridge. While pursuing the killer, Tom gets into an accident and is knocked unconscious. When he regains consciousness, he learns his father has been shot dead and the killer has escaped. Police make an arrest based on the testimony of Chick Chicanis (Gareth Williams). Meanwhile, rather than go to prison, Jimmy climbs to the top of the 31st Street Bridge and jumps off. His body is never found.

Two years later, Tom is working for the Pittsburgh Police River Rescue Squad when he is called to the scene of a body dump. The victim turns out to be Tom's ex-girlfriend, Cheryl Putnam. He is soon assigned a new partner, Jo Christman (Sarah Jessica Parker). District Attorney Frank Morris (Andre Braugher) reveals Tom had been demoted to River Rescue after he went on the news and publicly stated he believes the Polish Hill Strangler was a member of the police force. His cousin Danny Detillo (Tom Sizemore), Jimmy's brother, has stepped down from the force and became an alcoholic. He has recently returned from California.

At a hospital, a nurse is abducted. Tom receives a phone call similar to ones left by the Polish Hill Strangler two years earlier: he hears a woman scream before she is shot and the phone goes dead. Detective Eddie Eiler (Brion James) states on TV the murder was committed by a copycat. Tom is met with strong opposition by his uncle Nick Detillo (Dennis Farina), now a Captain, after claiming he received a phone call from the killer. Tom goes to the precinct and steals Chicanis' deposition file in order to conduct an unauthorized investigation. Soon after, the body of another of Tom's ex-girlfriends is found.

Later at the Policemen's Ball, a fight occurs between Hardy and the officers in attendance and ends when Jo intervenes and takes him away. They go to Hardy's boathouse, where a heated argument occurs after Jo pours his liquor down the sink to stop him from drinking. He implores her to leave, but she refuse and kisses him passionately. After a moment of confusion, Hardy returns her affections and they have sex. Outside the boat, an unseen person silently observes the lovemaking through the bedroom windows. The following day, Tom and Jo are on patrol and stumble upon the scene of someone dumping what appears to be a wrapped body off a bridge. Tom destroys the suspect's car but the unidentified individual escapes on foot. Divers sent to retrieve the body from the river find it to merely to be a bunch of rugs, which ends up Tom and Jo being humiliated by their peers.

Jo stumbles upon Tom's investigation notes and photos of the two victims Tom shows her a newspaper article stating another woman, Connie, yet another of Tom's ex-girlfriends, has been killed. Eiler informs Nick he suspects Tom of the murders, and Nick discloses Tom has been under scrutiny by Internal Affairs. During a court hearing to have Tom removed from the force, it is revealed Jo Christman is really Emily Harper of the Pennsylvania State Police, who has been monitoring Tom to find evidence of misconduct. Harper perjures herself about Tom's confrontation with Chicanis, and he goes unpunished.

When Emily is kidnapped, Tom suspects Danny is the culprit, seeking revenge for Jimmy's death. Tom finds his bedroom covered in blood and a firearm on the bed. Outside he finds another body, a police dispatcher he knows. Tom heads to the cabin. Danny shows up and Tom demands he cooperate. Someone from behind then knocks Tom unconscious. Tom awakens to find himself, Danny, and Emily handcuffed to chairs, with the news broadcast of Jimmy's brutality case playing on a TV. The killer reveals himself as none other than Jimmy, who had survived the fall into the river two years earlier. Jimmy is about to kill Emily when Nick suddenly walks in and stops him, telling him to turn himself in. Jimmy is defiant and commands Nick to tell Tom how Vince really died.

A flashback reveals Nick arrived on the scene immediately after the crash and was the first to confront the killer. He was horrified to find Jimmy, but let him escape. Vince pried himself out of the wreckage of Tom's car and took aim at the fleeing killer, unaware it was Jimmy. Nick tried to stop him and, in the ensuing struggle, killed Vince.

After this revelation, Nick tries to kill Jimmy, who is wearing a ballistic vest and returns fire, killing Nick. In a fit of rage, Danny charges at Jimmy, giving Tom a chance to free himself. As the police close in, Jimmy flees on a motorboat with Tom in pursuit. The two get into a scuffle in which Tom kills Jimmy by tasering him in the mouth. The movie ends with Tom, who has been reinstated as a detective, visiting his father's grave with Emily at his side.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

The film was cited as one of the many troubled projects during the time Sony Pictures was run by Jon Peters and Peter Guber. It took a huge amount of resources to merely break even.

Filming took 13 weeks in the summer of 1992 in Pittsburgh. The working title was "Three Rivers," and it was scheduled for release on May 21, 1993. But after the original cut was shown to test audiences who hated it, extensive re-shooting was done in Los Angeles, with story changes and removal of some plot points. Because of this, the release date was pushed from May to Sept. 17.[1] According to articles and reports at the time, test audiences disliked the initial cut of the film largely because they found parts of it confusing. Those parts were added into director Rowdy Herrington's and Marty Kaplan's original script by star Willis. One source claimed the original cut was like ”Hudson Hawk without the laughs.”

One of the veteran production members said that Willis ”called the shots like he did on '(Hudson) Hawk' and like he used to do on 'Moonlighting'. He had scenes rewritten. He did what he wanted to do. We were working with Orson Willis.”

When news about re-shoots were reported, Columbia Chairman Mark Canton said in an interview that he ”couldn’t be more enthusiastic” about the film, predicting it would be a ”beyond-sizable hit.” But in order to do so, the movie had to make $30 million-plus profit at the box office. Canton was known for being heavily involved in several other films in earlier years that were known for having very troubled productions and receiving bad receptions from audiences during test screenings. Those include Wes Craven's sci-fi horror Deadly Friend (1986), one of Willis's earlier box office flops The Bonfire of the Vanities (film), and John McTiernan's Last Action Hero (1993). Just as he did with "Striking Distance," Canton kept the news and rumors about problems on sets of those films and bad responses from test audiences from the public and demanded heavy changes on the films, which only ended up making matters worse.

In Striking Distance's case, for example, all the love/intimate scenes between Hardy and Jo were re-shot to make them sexier. Several dialogue scenes, such as the scene in the bar between Willis and Sizemore, were also cut to make the film's pace quicker. The change in tone made Columbia change the title from "Three Rivers" to "Striking Distance," as it now focused more on the action/thriller elements. Although his interference in the script and huge ego during filming caused problems with the production and the original cut, Willis was still very angry because he had to return for re-shoots, so much so that he blamed Herrington for it, despite the fact that Herrington defended Willis in interviews regarding problems with the film. According to cast and crew, Willis treated Herrington very poorly during both initial filming and re-shoots.[2]

The theatrical trailer shows a lot of deleted, extended and alternate scenes, probably ones that were cut or changed after bad test screenings of the original cut. There are also many promotional stills that show several other deleted scenes, such as Tom and Jo pulling a man out of the water while a group of people watch them and a deleted shot from the ending, showing Tom kneeling over Nick's body.

Striking Distance ended up being a box office bomb, earning only $24 million on a budget of $30 million.

Reception[edit]

Striking Distance received negative reviews from critics; it currently holds a 15% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.[citation needed]

Filming locations[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The Titusville Herald from Titusville, Pennsylvania · Page 2". Newspapers.com. 
  2. ^ "Is 'Striking Distance' a strike out?". Entertainment Weekly's EW.com. 

External links[edit]