In the way that Quiet Cool and Cobra are representative of everything that is great about cheesy, insane action movies, 1993’s Striking Distance is a symbol of everything not great. First off, it’s too long at OVER 100 MINUTES. It’s boring, and it’s really, really dumb in a totally boring way. There are a few good chases, but most of them happen on boats, so they’re not even that good, because boats obviously suck.
I watched this movie maybe nine months ago, but I’m not sure if it’s become hazier in my memory since then, or if I’ve just come to really understand everything I didn’t like about it. Either way, here’s how it all gets started: Bruce Willis plays Pittsburgh detective Tom Hardy and it’s just about time for the policeman’s ball when suddenly there’s a serial strangler on the loose, so that shit gets postponed so every officer in the city can chase the guy around for a few hours, but then he kills Bruce Willis’ dad and gets away, but then a guy is arrested who definitely doesn’t look like a serial strangler and (duh) Bruce Willis doesn’t believe they caught the real serial strangler, but Bruce Willis hardly has any time to even think about that because his mildly retarded police officer cousin Jimmy is about to jump off a bridge because he doesn’t want to go to prison for being a bad cop that beat the shit out of a suspect. Relevant to this scene and the character: Tom Hardy testified against Cousin Jimmy in court, because he’s serious about being a cop, and no mortal man is above that, goddammit.
So then Cousin Jimmy jumps and the skies TEAR OPEN to let down some totally dramatic and real-looking rain, and the whole situation really gets to Bruce Willis and makes him cry pretty hard.
Fast forward two years into the future and Bruce Willis has been demoted to the ever-so-lowly rank of BOAT COP because he went on the news after Cousin Jimmy’s death to say he thought the real strangler was a cop, which is definitely frowned upon in the cop community, even though they’re otherwise pretty forgiving and open-minded. Anyway, turns out Bruce Willis is actually a pretty shitty BOAT COP with a mess of self-esteem, authority, and hygiene issues.
An hour and a half later, it turns out Cousin Jimmy didn’t die, and he was the real strangler, and Bruce Willis tasers him in the mouth. Whatever.
The number-one thing you need to remember while watching Striking Distance is that all cops are related and they’re also all idiots that ignore crucial aspects of the job like “evidence” and “investigation” and “morality.” You’ll be reminded, consistently, of how much Dennis Farina rules, confused just as consistently about how Tom Sizemore could have ever been popular, and astounded by the talents of Sarah Jessica Parker. Parker plays Bruce’s by-the-book, no-nonsense, BOAT COP partner Jo Christman – and also she’s a woman! It’s a pretty wild twist, so take a moment to wrap your head around that one. (Actually, she turns out to be a state trooper assigned to follow him for some reason. But the woman thing is way more surprising.)
Of course, over time and using absolutely concrete “proof” that he’s “acquired,” Bruce Willis convinces Sarah Jessica Parker that he’s right about that whole thing that happened way back whenever. And when more stranglings happen following the old killer’s M.O., well what else could you need to know?
Obviously none of that matters. I feel like I’m just filling space here, which I guess is in line with the movie itself. Nothing that happens during Striking Distance ever feels necessary to the plot or to the viewer. All the reasons we watch movies, for entertainment, for art, to be challenged, to be wowed, to just relax and enjoy something new – Striking Distance has none of that. Instead there’s a scene where Tom and Jo sidle up next to a suspicious barge (duh) and decide to check it out and I’m pretty sure Bruce Willis bonks some dude in the head. An ex-girlfriend of Tom’s is murdered, which is confusing, because who is this guy and since when are his ex-girlfriends of any relevance? Oh, and there’s another policeman’s ball – this one goes off without a hitch, THANK GOD – but everybody’s still mad for what Bruce Willis did all those two years ago and he’s like, “Come on, you guys, come on, get over it already.”
In case you were wondering, Bruce Willis does sleep with Sarah Jessica Parker, but she initiates it, because she’s totally drawn to vulnerable sad-sack alcoholics – Oh, I didn’t mention disgraced BOAT COP Tom Hardy’s back-and-forth struggle with the sauce? Must’ve slipped my mind, which is odd since it’s such an important part of the story. – and he resists at first (Almost certainly an actual quote: “If we bang, it’ll definitely blow your mind, because I let out all my issues when I bang so it gets pretty real, and I’m sorry, I just don’t think you’re ready for that sort of bang, babe.”) but then he gives in because Jo is just such a warm, charming, and believable character. What follows is a really uncomfortable bullshit sex scene featuring an A-list action star and a former child actor, which must have sounded like pure gold on the page, shoehorned into the movie in a desperate attempt to bring some romance or steaminess or allure to a pile of hot garbage that had no pulse to begin with.
Oh yeah and their vigorous and passionate bone-session is being watched by Cousin Jimmy.
Bruce Willis broke into Hollywood in 1988 as with Die Hard – which I love, natch – but he didn’t really do anything else that was well-received critically until Pulp Fiction in 1994. In that time he did about a dozen other movies, including the first Die Hard sequel, two Look Who’s Talking movies, a horrible adaptation of Tom Wolfe’s The Bonfire of the Vanities, Hudson Hawk, North, The Last Boy Scout (which rules in theory but doesn’t come through), and Color of Night, an erotic thriller pretty much only remembered for its sex and nudity.
I guess what I’m trying to say is: Bruce Willis actually sucks, but he usually gets a pass because he’s done about ten or twelve especially great movies in the last twenty-five years. That not a very promising ratio, but enjoyable favorites like Pulp Fiction and Sin City and The Fifth Element ultimately tend to cancel out timewasters like Hudson Hawk and Bandits and The Jackal. Is Bruce Willis a cool enough guy or a charismatic enough actor to save a D.O.A. piece of shit that tries to be way more than it is, such as Striking Distance? No, he’s not. Wasn’t it fucking awesome when he murdered those asshole Germans in Die Hard? Yes, yes, a million times yes.