Striking Distance

(1993) ** R
102 min. Sony Pictures Releasing. Directors: Rowdy Herrington, Todd Hallowell. Cast: Bruce Willis, Sarah Jessica Parker, Dennis Farina, Tom Sizemore, Brion James.

/content/films/3449/1.jpgLike the box of generic corn flakes, Striking Distance isn't so terrible, but you'll forget it the second you're done with it. Even that generic action movie title is a tip-off you're heading into disposable cinema. For the duration of its running time, this adrenalized mystery-thriller from Rowdy Herrington (Road House, Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius) nominally holds attention mostly by the novelty of its River Rescue heroes and Pittsburgh setting, and the opportunity to chart the stars of Bruce Willis and Sarah Jessica Parker circa 1993.

In 1991, a serial killer dubbed the Polish Hill Strangler terrorizes Pittsburgh by incapacitating women with a stun gun, kidnapping them, then taunting cops by phoning them up and playing Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs' "Little Red Riding Hood" before slaying his victims. The murders hit close to home for Pittsburgh Police Det. Tom Hardy (Willis), but when a suspect is caught and tried, Hardy is convinced he's the wrong man. Publicly—and drunkenly—Hardy tells the assembled courthouse press that the real serial killer must be a cop, based on knowledge of police procedures. His outburst instantly makes him the least popular man on the force. Two years later, we learn he's been banished to the River Rescue unit. He's no more popular there, and drinks no less, so it's understandable when his diver (Timothy Busfield) eagerly steps aside. Hardy's new partner is—avast! A woman!

Jo Christman (Sarah Jessica Parker) quickly proves more than capable as well as smitten with the dedicated but tortured cop at her side. Because this is a movie, the men wear shorts, while Jo wears short shorts: she looks like she's starring in a beer commercial. Anyway, when the Polish Hill Strangler predictably strikes again, Hardy starts to make noise again, insisting this is no copycat but the real deal. Worse, the killer makes it personal again, exclusively going after the women in Hardy's life. It's all slightly easier to take with John Mahoney, Andre Braugher, Dennis Farina, Robert Pastorelli and Tom Sizemore playing the cops—amusingly, all but Braugher play Hardy's kinfolk. There be twists aplenty, mateys (though it's not hard to guess the final reveals), as well as some entertainingly overblown action. Don't think too much, enjoy the wailing electric guitar, and 102 minutes of your life will gently slip away like the currents of the river.

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Aspect ratios: 1.85:1

Number of discs: 1

Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1

Street date: 6/16/2009

Distributor: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

In its Blu-ray debut, Striking Distance gets a very solid A/V treatment, one that's tops, in fact, for a film of this vintage. The 1993 film displays light grain that happily hasn't been digitally scrubbed away, and both day and night scenes hold up well in detail. Colors seem true, and black level is effectively deep. The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix can be considered definitive if relatively unexceptional, making the most of its source material. The disc is BD-Live enabled, but otherwise Striking Distance didn't rate any bonus features from Sony (not even the theatrical trailer), but presumably the film's the thing for Bruce Willis fans looking to fill out their collections.

Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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