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Striking Distance is a 1993 American action thriller film starring Bruce Willis as Pittsburgh Police homicide detective Thomas Hardy. The film co-stars Sarah Jessica Parker, Dennis Farina, and Tom Sizemore. It was directed by Rowdy Herrington and written by Herrington and Marty Kaplan. The film was shot on location throughout Pittsburgh; its early title was Three Rivers.

Striking Distance
Striking distance.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRowdy Herrington
Produced byMarty Kaplan
Arnon Milchan
Written byRowdy Herrington
Marty Kaplan
Music byBrad Fiedel
CinematographyMac Ahlberg
Edited byPasquale Buba
Mark Helfrich
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
  • September 17, 1993 (1993-09-17) (United States)
Running time
101 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$30 million
Box office$24 million (US)


Thomas Hardy, a Pittsburgh Police homicide detective, has broken the ranks by informing on his partner and cousin, Jimmy Detillo, for using excessive force. En route to the Policemen's Ball with his father, Vincent Hardy, the ball is postponed after a call indicating a serial killer nicknamed the Polish Hill Strangler has been spotted. As Tom and Vince pursue the killer's vehicle, the vehicles collide and both roll down an embankment. When Tom regains consciousness, he learns his father has been shot dead and the killer has escaped. Police arrest a criminal named Douglas Kesser as the Strangler. Later, rather than go to prison, Jimmy climbs to the top of the 31st Street Bridge and jumps off. His body is never found.

Two years later, Tom is drinking heavily and has been reassigned to the River Rescue Squad. His cousin Danny, Jimmy's brother, has stepped down from the force and also drinks heavily. Called to the scene of a body dump, Tom finds the victim is an ex-girlfriend. Tom is assigned a new partner, Jo Christman, who learns from District Attorney Frank Morris that Tom had been demoted after telling a television reporter that he believed the Polish Hill Strangler was a policeman.

A nurse is abducted. Tom receives a phone call similar to ones left by the Polish Hill Strangler: the nurse screams before she is shot and the phone goes dead. Detective Eddie Eiler, who hates Tom for turning in Jimmy, states on TV the murder was committed by a copycat. Tom is met with strong opposition by his uncle, Captain Nick Detillo, after suggesting the Strangler is back. Tom goes to the precinct and steals the Strangler file in order to conduct an unauthorized investigation. Soon after, the body of another of Tom's ex-girlfriends is found.

Tom is invited to the Policemen's Ball by Jo as she is not familiar with any other officers there. Despite knowing that he won't be very welcome, Tom meets Jo at the ball and introduces her to the Hardys (who represent a large portion of the officers present). A brawl later occurs between Tom and the hostile officers in attendance, but Jo intervenes and takes him home. Later same night, the two engage in a heated confrontation after Jo pours Hardy's drink down the sink in an attempt to stop him from drinking. Hardy pleads for her to leave, but Jo shuts down the suggestion and reveals her desire to make love, shocking Tom. They then have passionate sex, unaware that they are being watched by someone outside the houseboat.

While on patrol, Tom and Jo stumble upon the scene of someone dumping what appears to be a wrapped body off a bridge. Tom destroys the suspect's car but the unidentified individual escapes. Divers retrieve the body only to find it to be merely a bunch of rugs, which leads to Tom and Jo being humiliated by their peers. Later that night while in bed together, Tom and Jo share their suspicions that that the killer purposely dumped the rugs to make them look like fools. Jo confesses to Hardy that she was married once before, and now has a four-year-old daughter. Tom accepts this without thinking any differently of their relationship, and they make love again.

Eiler informs Nick he suspects Tom of the murders. Nick discloses Tom has been under scrutiny by Internal Affairs. During a court hearing to have Tom removed from the force, it is revealed Jo is really Emily Harper of the Pennsylvania State Police, who has been monitoring Tom to find evidence of misconduct. Harper perjures herself and Tom goes unpunished.

Emily is kidnapped from her apartment just as Tom finds the body of another female victim, a police dispatcher he knows, outside his boathouse. Thinking that Danny is the killer & angry about Jimmy's death, Tom heads upriver to the Detillo family cabin. Just as Danny arrives, someone from behind knocks Tom unconscious. Tom awakens to find himself, Danny, and Emily handcuffed to chairs, with the killer, who turns out to be none other than Jimmy, who survived the fall into the river two years earlier, standing in front of them. Jimmy is about to kill Emily when Nick suddenly walks in and he tells his son to turn himself in, but Jimmy is defiant and commands Nick to tell how Vince really died.

A flashback reveals Nick arrived on the scene immediately after Tom and the Strangler crashed their cars. He was horrified to find Jimmy and let him escape. Vince emerged from the wrecked car and took aim at the fleeing killer, unaware it was Jimmy. Nick tried to stop him and, in the ensuing struggle, accidentally killed Vince.

After this revelation, Jimmy takes aim at Nick, who shoots first. Jimmy is wearing a bulletproof vest and returns fire, killing his father. In a fit of rage, Danny charges at Jimmy, giving Tom a chance to free himself. As the police close in, Jimmy flees on a motorboat with Tom in pursuit. The two get into a scuffle in which Tom kills Jimmy by tasering him in the mouth. After Tom is escorted by a paramedic, an officer attempts to remove the handcuffs from Tom's wrists, but Eiler steps in to remove them, and apologizes. In the process, he offers Tom to punch him in the face, which Tom briefly declines and after a second of reluctance, he punches Eiler in the face. Afterwards, Tom and Emily embrace each other.

The movie ends with Tom, who has been reinstated as a detective, visiting his father's grave with Emily and her daughter at his side.


  • Bruce Willis as Det. Sgt. Thomas "Tommy" Hardy, a former homicide detective who was partnered with his cousin whom he later testified against. He is now an officer with the city's River Rescue Squad.
  • Sarah Jessica Parker as Officer Jo Christman/Tpr. Emily Harper
  • Dennis Farina as Lt./Capt. Nick Detillo, Tommy's uncle and Danny and Jimmy's father.
  • Tom Sizemore as Danny Detillo, Tommy's cousin, Jimmy's brother and Nick's son. Formerly a Pittsburgh Police Officer as well he leaves the force and becomes an alcoholic.
  • Brion James as Det. Eddie Eiler, a loud, rude overzealous detective who despises Tommy for ratting on his partner.
  • Robert Pastorelli as Jimmy Detillo, Tommy's cousin and partner who is believed to have committed suicide. Later found to be alive and the serial killer known as the Polish Hill Strangler.
  • Timothy Busfield as Officer Sacco, a by-the-book dweeb, who was Tommy’s first partner in the river rescue squad
  • John Mahoney as Capt. Vincent Hardy, Tom's father.
  • Andre Braugher as District Attorney Frank Morris
  • Tom Atkins as Uncle Fred
  • Mike Hodge as Capt. Penderman, Tommy's commanding officer on the River Rescue Squad.
  • Jodi Long as Kim Lee
  • Roscoe Orman as Sid
  • Robert Gould as Douglas Kesser
  • Gareth Williams as Chick Chicanis
  • Billy Hartung as Boat Preppie
  • Timothy Butts as Huck Tuckerman
  • Kurt Russell as Man on Riverboat (Uncredited)


The film was cited as one of the many troubled projects during the time Sony Pictures was run by Jon Peters and Peter Guber. It took a huge amount of resources to merely break even.

Filming took 13 weeks in the summer of 1992 in Pittsburgh. The working title was "Three Rivers," and it was scheduled for release on May 21, 1993. But after the original cut was shown to test audiences who hated it, extensive re-shooting was done in Los Angeles, with story changes and removal of some plot points. Because of this, the release date was pushed from May to Sept. 17.[1] According to articles and reports at the time, test audiences disliked the initial cut of the film largely because they found parts of it confusing. Those parts were added into director Rowdy Herrington's and Marty Kaplan's original script by star Willis. One source claimed the original cut was like "Hudson Hawk without the laughs."

One of the veteran production members said that Willis "called the shots like he did on '(Hudson) Hawk' and like he used to do on 'Moonlighting'. He had scenes rewritten. He did what he wanted to do. We were working with Orson Willis."

When news about re-shoots were reported, Columbia chairman Mark Canton said in an interview that he "couldn't be more enthusiastic" about the film, predicting it would be a "beyond-sizable hit". But in order to do so, the movie had to make $30 million-plus profit at the box office. Canton was known for being heavily involved in several other films in earlier years that had very troubled productions and received bad receptions from audiences during test screenings. Those include Wes Craven's sci-fi horror film Deadly Friend, one of Willis's earlier box office flops The Bonfire of the Vanities, and John McTiernan's Last Action Hero. Just as he did with Striking Distance, Canton kept the news and rumors about problems on sets of those films and bad responses from test audiences from the public and demanded heavy changes on the films, which only ended up making matters worse.

In Striking Distance's case, for example, all the love/intimate scenes between Hardy and Jo were re-shot to make them sexier. Several dialogue scenes, such as the scene in the bar between Willis and Sizemore, were also cut to make the film's pace quicker. The change in tone made Columbia change the title from "Three Rivers" to "Striking Distance", as it now focused more on the action/thriller elements. Although his interference in the script and huge ego during filming caused problems with the production and the original cut, Willis was still very angry because he had to return for re-shoots, so much so that he blamed Herrington for it, despite the fact that Herrington defended Willis in interviews regarding problems with the film. According to cast and crew, Willis treated Herrington very poorly during both initial filming and re-shoots.[2]

The theatrical trailer shows a lot of deleted, extended and alternate scenes, probably ones that were cut or changed after bad test screenings of the original cut. There are also many promotional stills that show several other deleted scenes, such as Tom and Jo pulling a man out of the water while a group of people watch them and a deleted shot from the ending, showing Tom kneeling over Nick's body.

Striking Distance ended up being a box office bomb in the U.S, earning only $24 million on a budget of $30 million.


Striking Distance received negative reviews from critics; it currently holds a 17% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 23 reviews.[3] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B" on an A+ to F scale.[4]

Roger Ebert rated the film one and a half out of four stars, criticizing the film's cliches (even listing them individually) and stating: "The credits say "written by Rowdy Herrington and Martin Kaplan," but the right word would have been "anthologized.""[5] Owen Gleiberman called the film a "flat, dankly lit, grindingly inept thriller about a serial killer whose victims all turn out to have been acquaintances of Willis' rumpled, alcoholic cop hero."[6]

Filming locationsEdit


  1. ^ "The Titusville Herald from Titusville, Pennsylvania · Page 2".
  2. ^ "Is 'Striking Distance' a strike out?". Entertainment Weekly's
  3. ^
  4. ^ "CinemaScore".
  5. ^ "Striking Distance".
  6. ^ "Striking Distance".

External linksEdit