Striking Distance (1993)
Striking Distance (1993)

Genre: Action Running Time: 1 hr. 42 min.

Release Date: September 17th, 1993 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Rowdy Herrington Actors: Bruce Willis, Sarah Jessica Parker, Dennis Farina, Tom Sizemore, Brion James, Robert Pastorelli, John Mahoney, Andre Braugher, Jodi Long




n 1991, the Pittsburgh Polish Hill strangler takes his fifth female victim, once again employing his unusual modus operandi of calling the police to taunt them with sounds of the murder and a recording of the song “Li’l Red Riding Hood” (by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs). Homicide Detective Tom Hardy (Bruce Willis) thinks the culprit must be a cop, based on the killer’s prolonged ability to elude the police. While on his way to the Policeman’s Ball with his father, Vincent (John Mahoney), a call comes in that a strangler suspect is on the run.

The duo engages in a lengthy, high-speed, fiery, destructive, deadly car chase (during which no one thinks to shoot out the perpetrator’s tires until the last minute) with dozens of real vehicles, slow-motion, and impressive stunts. It ends in tragedy when the killer shoots Vincent and gets away. Tom must then deal not only with wounds and crutches, but also a career-ruining scandal involving his crooked ex-partner, who opts for suicide as opposed to jail time.

Two years later, Tom has a drinking problem, lives on a houseboat, and is bitter, impudent, insubordinate, and mean. He’s also relegated to the humdrum River Rescue division. Although his father’s killer was apprehended and sentenced to execution, Tom has always had his doubts. When a new body – Tom’s ex-girlfriend Cheryl – is discovered in the river, his suspicions are affirmed. The strangler is back and targeting women close to the disgraced officer.

Hardy is also assigned a new diver, Jo Christman (Sarah Jessica Parker), whom he generally disrespects (perhaps more than normal, because she’s a woman). During a not-so-routine boat hijacking intervention, in which Willis displays his typical rule-breaking, one-man-army character development, he’s saved by Jo’s unexpected attentiveness. She earns the smallest sliver of gratitude, but Tom still retains a considerable level of disregard for everyone around him. He’ll eventually have to confide in her to solve the real case of his father’s murderer, who continues to dump bodies into the river so Tom will find them.

Supporting players (and recognizable character actors) include Dennis Farina as the police captain, Tom Sizemore as a fellow detective, and Brion James as the antagonistic nemesis cop. Everyone could be a suspect, considering a conspiracy is clearly afoot and allegiances are constantly shifting – so a deck stacked with singular faces is important. Willis and Parker aren’t the typical pairing, either, though the prime antihero is missing momentous catchphrases and a unique antagonist offering (and offing) – a necessity in generic actioners.

“Striking Distance” was made during Bruce Willis’ successful run of action films (specifically between “Die Hard 2” and “Die Hard with a Vengeance”), and he still has some hair and leading man machismo. But dated electric guitars pepper the soundtrack while cheesy saxophone music interrupts the obligatory sex scene (between characters who barely know each other). And although the basic concept is intriguing and the serial killer’s methods are memorable, the pacing is noticeably faulty. A few outstanding action scenes can’t save the ineffective romance, Jo’s unconvincing role, or the boring character development moments that spread the murder/mystery excitement too thin. These kinds of thrillers are of the dime-a-dozen variety, creating little impression and boasting negligible returns and reviews.

– Mike Massie

  • 3/10