You'd think that a movie from the director of Roadhouse (admit it, you like it) starring Bruce Willis, Dennis Farina, Tom Sizemore, John Mahoney, Tom Atkins and a young Sarah Jessica Parker might be worth a watch, no? I thought so too. Until I gave it a watch and realized just what a terrible film 1993's Striking Distance really is.
Willis plays a Pittsburgh detective named Tom Hardy who comes from a long line of cops. His world is rocked when his dad, Vince Hardy (John Mahoney), is killed while chasing a serial killer operating in the area. Hardy's life gets even more complicated when he reports his partner and cousin Jimmy (Robert Pastorelli) to the higher ups for some unnecessary police brutality which results in Jimmy supposedly taking his own life.
Fast forward a year or two later and pretty much every women that Hardy has ever had any sort of relationship with has turned up dead. Hardy thinks that maybe the serial killer who off'd his father is behind it until that killer is caught. Hardy's not convinced that the cops have the right man, however, and he figures that this guy has been set up. Using his super cool detective skills, Hardy decides to go against policy and launch his own covert investigation by looking into his father's murder, and the possibly related murders of the various women but the more he uncovers about this case, the more trouble he winds up in. Along the way he beds a younger female rookie cap named Jo (Sarah Jessica Parker), gets into a few fights, chases lots of things in a boat, and eventually saves the day.
In a 2001 appearance on The Bob Costas Show, Willis apologized for this movie, and after watching it, you can understand why. Strung together from some of the most obvious and overused clichés you can think of, this thriller fails to thrill, instead it feels pedantic and tired with an obvious ending that isn't in the least bit surprising. Willis more or less sleepwalks through this one, his natural charisma checked at the door and unable to seep through and add much of anything to the part while his relationship with Sarah Jessica Parker's character seems trite and shallow. He's a great actor when he's got good material to work with, Terry Gilliam, Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino have all used him very effectively, but here he fizzles. Fun supporting efforts from the likeable John Mahoney alongside solid character actors Tom Sizemore, Dennis Farina, and Tom Atkins help a little bit but not enough to save what is otherwise a completely predictable cop movie.
To the film's credit, it has a couple of interesting action sequences, a decent car chase and some punchy rhythmic violence going for it, but these can't elevate the film enough past its level of mediocrity to save things. Had the script been more interesting and had the characters not been cookie-cutter stereotypes then Striking Distance could have been a contender but that didn't happen and it's hard not to see the ending coming from a mile away. Does it come as a surprise that Willis' character is haunted by his past and that this has made him a hard drinking anti-socialite? Nope. Does it come as a surprise that the younger rookie cop sees something in him worth trying to save and that she can't help but fall for him? Nope. Does it come as a surprise when the true killer's identity is finally revealed? Nope. And it's for those reasons, coupled with Willis' uninspired performance, that the film ultimately fails despite some moments that show that it did actually have potential.
Striking Distance debuts on Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen 1080p high definition transfer. The results aren't particularly inspiring. There's a fair bit of minor print damage throughout the film and the heavy grain can get distracting at times. There aren't any obvious authoring problems to note, however, but the picture tends to lean towards the softer side of things more often than not. Colors look alright, and skin tones look pretty natural but the image can tend to be a bit noisy, particularly when the camera pulls back and opens up more. Close ups show some decent detail but long and medium shots fail to excite even if it does look as gritty and tough as the filmmaker's had probably hoped it would.
The sole audio option on this disc is a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track, in English, with optional subtitles provided in English, English SDH, French, Portuguese and Spanish. Standard definition Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound mixes are included in French, Spanish and Portuguese. While the TrueHD track is definitely anchored around the front of the mix, there is some good rear channel action during some of the action scenes and if you listen closely you'll definitely notice some interesting ambient and background noise during some of the more active scenes in the movie. Dialogue is always clear and easy to understand though the score doesn't really envelope you as much as it could have and as such, it sounds a bit wimpy. This isn't a mix that you'll want to show off to your friends in order to justify your expensive surround sound system, but it gets the job done well enough.
Sony has provided a few trailers that play before you can get to the main menu screen, and some chapter stops, but that's it. There's nothing really here except ads. Yawn.
It's hard to imagine just who needs Striking Distance on Blu-ray, or any format for that matter. For a movie with such a good cast, it's only memorable for how lame it is - it's not even bad enough to be entertaining, it's just bad. Plenty of bad action movies can still provide oodles of entertainment value but we don't get much of that at all here and Sony's Blu-ray release doesn't really do the movie any favors at all. Skip it.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.