Striking Distance – A 2018 look at a 1993 Pittsburgh Action Thriller

Photo Source: IMDB

The majority of the filming of Striking Distance was done in Pittsburgh in 1992. With talent including Bruce Willis, Sarah Jessica Parker and Dennis Farina they had the star power to bring home a winner. Originally, the film was titled, Three Rivers, but was eventually changed to Striking Distance, so as to appeal to a wide audience.  And having 30 million dollars to spend you would believe that they had everything needed to bring put together a film that would have a healthy return on the producers investment, but this film left me unimpressed and bored.

The film is interesting, and at times exciting.  I’m sure with a more believable story line, the elimination of  some scenes that were failed attempts at comedy, and coming up with an ending that didn’t drag on,  the work would actually be considered enjoyable. The people that write and direct action thrillers don’t have to be great storytellers, but I believe the folks that put up 30 million bucks would prefer that they were.
Here’s the story. Sgt. Tom Hardy, A Pittsburgh homicide detective (played by  Bruce Willis) gets demoted to river patrol after providing evidence against a fellow officer in court.  As if his standing in police circles couldn’t get any lower, his journey to patrolling the three rivers leads to his comments that some fellow officer has to be responsible for a wave of recent murders taking place in Pittsburgh.  As luck would have it the murders Tom Hardy was investigating continued on his new beat, the rivers of Pittsburgh.  Interestingly enough, the only thing the river victims had in common was that they all knew Sgt. Tom Hardy.
The story falls apart early when we see a man jump to his death in a Pittsburgh river and his body is never found. Maybe if the Mississippi flowed through here I could buy it.  But with the slow-moving nature of the Allegheny, Monongahela and the Ohio, I felt this was a stretch.
Regarding the other characters, watching Sarah Jessica Parker automatically reminded me of story lines from Sex In The City.  When Dennis Farina performs my thoughts go to Law & Order and the problem I have when John Mahoney appears anywhere is believing he is anything other than Martin Crane the retired cop and father of Frasier Crane from the ten year hit TV series Frasier.  The film didn’t suffer from some of it’s stars being typecast when it was released in 93’ but now these stars are a bit of a distraction. Old films sometimes acquire unintended baggage.   While watching Striking Distance today I’m most interested in how much of Pittsburgh has changed and how much of the city has stayed the same as I am with the good cop, bad cop story line.
For this Pittsburgher the most enjoyable parts of the 100 plus minutes I spent watching this tale were recognizing the players and remembering some of the good movies and TV shows they stared in.  I also enjoyed seeing and revisiting city scenes from the early 90’s through this film.
One especially entertaining aspect of the film was the high-speed car chases. As any other Pittsburgher would be able to attest , cars appearing to be going 80 mph in areas where there is too much traffic to allow them to hit 30, is not realistic but definitely fun to watch.
While recently watching this 1993 offering I remember caring about the Willis and Parker characters but after it was finally over I couldn’t tell you why I cared. Native Pittsburgher Randy Herrington was given credit or blame for directing and being involved in the writing of this piece. And while there were some shots that would make any Pittsburgher proud there weren’t enough of them to save the day.
By: Tom Pollard