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
Music by Brad Fiedel
Cinematography Mac Ahlberg
Edited by Pasquale Buba
Mark Helfrich
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release date
  • September 17, 1993 (1993-09-17)
(United States)
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 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.


Thomas Hardy, a Pittsburgh Police homicide detective, has broken the ranks by informing on his partner and cousin, Jimmy Detillo, for using excessive force. While attending the Policemen's Ball with his father, Vince Hardy, the ball is postponed after a call indicating a serial killer nicknamed the Polish Hill Strangler has been spotted. As Tom and Vince pursue the killer's vehicle, the vehicles collide and both roll down an embankment. When Tom regains consciousness, he learns his father has been shot dead and the killer has escaped. Police arrest a criminal named Douglas Kesser as the Strangler. Later, 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 drinking heavily and has been reassigned to the River Rescue Squad. His cousin Danny, Jimmy's brother, has stepped down from the force and also drinks heavily. Called to the scene of a body dump, Tom finds the victim is an ex-girlfriend. Tom is assigned a new partner, Jo Christman, who learns from District Attorney Frank Morris that Tom had been demoted after telling a television reporter that he believed the Polish Hill Strangler was a policeman.

A nurse is abducted. Tom receives a phone call similar to ones left by the Polish Hill Strangler: the nurse screams before she is shot and the phone goes dead. Detective Eddie Eiler, who hates Tom for turning in Jimmy, states on TV the murder was committed by a copycat. Tom is met with strong opposition by his uncle, Captain Nick Detillo, after suggesting the Strangler is back. Tom goes to the precinct and steals the Strangler file in order to conduct an unauthorized investigation. Soon after, the body of another of Tom's ex-girlfriends is found.

Tom attends the Policeman's Ball, where he is still unpopular with all most police, except for his extended Hardy police family. When a drunken cousin Danny starts acting belligerent, a fistfight occurs between Tom and Eiler which is broken up by Jo. Later that night, the two partners fall in love and have sex at Hardy's boathouse. Outside the docks, an unseen person silently observes the lovemaking, which ends with Tom and Jo romancing each other into a deep slumber.

On patrol, Tom and Jo 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. Divers retrieve the body only to find it to merely a bunch of rugs, which leads to Tom and Jo being humiliated by their peers.

While Jo stumbles upon Tom's investigation notes of the Stangler, Eiler informs Nick he suspects Tom. 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 is really Emily Harper of the Pennsylvania State Police, who has been monitoring Tom to find evidence of misconduct. Harper perjures herself and Tom goes unpunished.

Emily is kidnapped from her apartment just as Tom finds the body of another female victim, a police dispatcher he knows, outside his trailer. Thinking that Danny is the killer, angry about Jimmy's death, Tom heads upriver to the Detillo family cabin. Just as Danny arrives, someone from behind knocks Tom unconscious. Tom awakens to find himself, Danny, and Emily handcuffed to chairs, with the killer, who turns out to be none other than Jimmy, who survived the fall into the river two years earlier, standing in front of them. Jimmy is about to kill Emily when Nick suddenly walks in and he tells his son to turn himself in, but Jimmy is defiant and commands Nick to tell how "Uncle" Vince really died.

A flashback reveals Nick arrived on the scene immediately after Tom and the Strangler crashed their cars. He was horrified to find Jimmy and let him escape. Vince emerged from the wrecked 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, Jimmy takes aim at Nick, who shoots first. Jimmy is wearing a bulletproof vest and returns fire, killing his father. 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 and her daughter at his side.



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 film Deadly Friend, one of Willis's earlier box office flops The Bonfire of the Vanities, and John McTiernan's Last Action Hero. 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 in the U.S, earning only $24 million on a budget of $30 million.


Striking Distance received negative reviews from critics; it currently holds a 15% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.[3]

Filming locations[edit]


  1. ^ "The Titusville Herald from Titusville, Pennsylvania · Page 2". 
  2. ^ "Is 'Striking Distance' a strike out?". Entertainment Weekly's 
  3. ^

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