Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Rowdy Herrington|
|Produced by||Marty Kaplan|
|Written by||Rowdy Herrington|
|Music by||Brad Fiedel|
|Edited by||Pasquale Buba|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|Box office||$24 million (US)|
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. En route to the Policemen's Ball with his father, Vincent 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 is invited to the Policemen's Ball by Jo as she is not familiar with any other officers there. Despite understanding that he won't be very welcome, which he initially isn't, Tom goes and accompanies Jo. Tom and Jo then join the Hardys (who represent a large portion of the officers present). Nick and Danny arrive and Danny is already drunk. Danny has an outburst while a toast is being proposed to Vince and a fight ensues between Tom and Eddie. Jo takes Tom home and after in initial fit from Tom the two partners kiss and then proceed to have sex while being observed by an unseen person.
The next night 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 be 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 boathouse. 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 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, accidentally 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. After Tom is escorted by a paramedic, an officer attempts to remove the handcuffs from Tom's wrists, but Eiler steps in to remove them, and apologizes. In the process, he offers Tom to punch him in the face, which Tom briefly declines and after a second of reluctance, he punches Eiler in the face. Afterwards, Tom and Emily embrace each other.
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.
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. 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 had very troubled productions and received 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 Distances 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.
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 an 18% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 22 reviews. Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B" on an A+ to F scale.
Roger Ebert rated the film one and a half out of four stars, criticizing the film's cliches (even listing them individually) and stating: "The credits say "written by Rowdy Herrington and Martin Kaplan," but the right word would have been "anthologized.""Owen Gleiberman called the film a "flat, dankly lit, grindingly inept thriller about a serial killer whose victims all turn out to have been acquaintances of Willis' rumpled, alcoholic cop hero."