Thursday, March 27, 2008

Striking Distance

The Action Mutant…
knows about distance…because of restraining orders.

Striking Distance

review by Joe Burrows

(written ‎September ‎13, ‎2007)
A few months ago, my Film Aesthetics teacher said Bruce Willis would be the man to save America, post 9/11. It certainly seemed like that at one time but has anyone viewed the John Rambo online grindhouse trailer? It just may be the most violent movie EVER! I mean seriously…blood filled exploding bodies? It was at that moment of the trailer that I knew Rambo could take this country back, like he did 20+ years ago. The question is: will we let him? He had so much of an easier time back then. He didn’t have to deal with the Christian Bales or the Clive Owens. They just didn’t exist yet! And besides…how can we trust Bruce if he can’t even handle a small skirmish in the rivers of Pennsylvania?

The Plot, as it was:
Willis is Tom Hardy, a Pittsburgh cop who is persona non gratis with the force after testifying against his partner (the late Robert Pastorelli) on a police brutality charge. On the way to the annual Policeman’s Ball, his dad Vince (John Mahoney) is killed after attempting to chase down the “Polish Hill Strangler”, a guy who kills women and taunts police over the phone with the Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs tune “Lil’ Red Riding Hood”. Two years later, Hardy is a drunken wreck still reviled by the force, only now he is a River Rescue officer. He still believes his dad’s killer is on the loose, despite the case being closed and someone being arrested for the murder. However, he’s saddled by his demons and a female partner named Jo (Sarah Jessica Parker) who goes by the book. And wouldn’t you know, there is another strangler on the streets killing women…women that are linked to one Tom Hardy. Makes you wish everyone thinking you’re an asshole was your biggest problem, eh?

Don’t shoot me…I’m only the reviewer!:
Striking Distance has a place in my cinematic heart. Why? Because there hasn’t been a film in history that has striven so badly to be 100% unoriginal in every way possible! How can you not admire that commitment? Hell, the whole “playing a song as a calling card” gimmick is lifted straight from Sea of Love, a film that is not surprisingly superior in every sense. Director Rowdy (Roddy?) Herrington and writer Martin Kaplin have every cliché sandwiched into 103 minutes, with it coming just short of reaching parody level. It’s pretty bad when you can figure out who the killer is 10-15 minutes into the film! And it’s not even because of the lazy characterization…look at the killer’s hairstyle during the end of the opening credits and match it up to someone featured shortly thereafter. It’s pretty poetic that the filmmakers were too lazy to even think of putting a hooded sweatshirt over their killer to disguise him! The sad part is that the film boasts a pretty amazing ensemble cast that is wasted at just about every turn. Dennis Farina comes off the best as Tom’s police captain uncle Nick, as he seems to revel in delivering hard boiled cop dialogue. And the late Brion James manages to do what he does best: playing a complete asshole to the hilt. But the rest of the waste of talent is criminal (no pun intended). Mahoney is only on screen for ten minutes and Andre Braugher (as a prosecutor) only gets two scenes to work with. Tom Sizemore (as Tom’s drunk cousin Danny) and Timothy Busfield (Tom’s RR supervisor) only seem to be around for the sole purpose to yell profanities at Tom and Pastorelli acts like a whacked out, sputtering madman at every turn of his screen time. The opposite is true for the two leads, as Parker doesn’t excitedly tackle the “token female” role and Willis is so stoic at times, it’s easy to realize he’d rather be anywhere else. It’s telling that a film that is so “by-the-numbers” is lead by two actors going through the motions. And yet, the film is competently paced and the actors manage to keep it alive just enough to make it watchable. It would be more watchable if you could make a drinking game to it: take a drink after spotting each cliché! Don’t try it though…I don’t like to encourage suicide.

Body Count/Violence: 13. Even the action is unoriginal! The women aren’t murdered on screen; they’re all found dead in the water. The rest of the film includes shootings, drunken fistfights, taser shocks, etc. The car chase at the beginning is pretty sweet, though.

Sexuality/Nudity: Willis and Parker have a roll in the bed that looks like it could have gotten much steamier. Alas, he’s just bare-chested and she’s in her bra and panties. It did make me kind of sad, as it reminded me that Parker is the only Sex in the City cast member to not go nude on that show.

Language/Dialogue: Pretty strong. Half of Busfield’s lines consist of “Hardy, you fuckin’ asshole!”

How bad was it?:
How is this for yaw: the star of the film is its most ardent critic! On an episode of HBO’s On the Record with Bob Costas in May 2004, Willis proclaimed that the film “sucked” and he was sorry he did it. This coming from the man who’s done Color of Night, North and Mercury Rising. The rest of the critics weren’t that far from Willis’ opinion, as they almost unanimously chided the film as being stale and predictable.

Did it make the studio’s day?:
Willis' star clout made the film the #1 movie in America when Striking Distance debuted on 9/17/93, taking in $8.7 million for Columbia Pictures. However, it sunk faster than one of the dead bodies in the film once word came around. It finished 4th in its second week, then 10th, 13th and 14th in its following weeks! Distance ended up pulling in $24.1 million in its American run, though no budget was revealed.

Film: **/*****
Entertainment value: ***/*****

Copyright 2007 The Action Mutant.


Anonymous said...

I agree with Bruce-- this movie sucked. =)

Joe Burrows said...

It does suck...but I've seen it about five times so I either a) love horrible movies, b) am neurologically impared or c) most likely, both.