Follow TV Tropes


Film / Striking Distance

Go To

"Loyalty above all else, except honor."
Lt. Vincent Hardy

Striking Distance is a 1993 American action thriller film directed by Rowdy Harrington, starring Bruce Willis, Sarah Jessica Parker, Tom Sizemore, Dennis Farina, Robert Pastorelli, John Mahoney, and Brion James.

Tom Hardy (Willis) is a 5th generation Pittsburgh cop investigating a serial killer, the Polish Hill Strangler, when he is demoted to river patrol for suggesting that the serial killer is another cop.

Tropes in this film:

  • A-Team Firing: A large group of police officers take aim at a car and shoot it up from both sides. None of them hit the suspect nor any parts which would impair the car's movement.
  • The Alcoholic: Danny, it is implied this got him kicked off the force. Tom is also seen drinking several times; Jo seems particularly bothered by it, and an argument ensues when she tries to get rid of some of the booze in his house.
  • Apathetic Citizens: During the first Chase Scene, not a single car pulls over to the side of the road at the sound of 15 police cars chasing a suspect. The passerby on the sidewalks look over at the cars with mild interest, but no one stops in their tracks or takes cover. Even a guy pushing a baby carriage along the cliff side only glances over at the chase, seemingly with no concern for the child.
  • Artistic Licence – Geography: The route of the Chase Scene only sort of makes sense. The radio says they are, "At the 31st Street Bridge, going westbound on Liberty", so Tom and his father take Bigelow Boulevard to downtown to meet up with the chase. They hook up with 7th Street, passing by the post office and crossing Grant to get to Liberty. Then they connect with Liberty from the other side of the street than they should. They pass Oxford Center and inexplicably pop into the Armstrong Tunnels, under Duquesne University. Out of the tunnels they cross the Monongahela River at the Smithfield Street Bridge... odd considering the tunnels they just pulled out of end at the 10th Street bridge. Why did the suspect backtrack two miles to cross the river?note  There's the standoff at what looks like Carson Street under the Liberty Bridge, and then he manages to escape that and somehow gets to and drives up the PJ McArdle Roadway to Mount Washington. He skids to a turn down Grandview Avenue, runs into an Iron City truck, and from there it's hard to tell where they're going - but there's nothing like the area they end up in down Grandview.
  • Ax-Crazy: Jimmy without question.
  • Babies Ever After: The final scene has Jo/Emily and her daughter waiting for Tom as he visits his father's grave. He even says, "Grandkids, Dad.", referring to a conversation he and his father had before he died, implying that they'll have even more.
  • Big "NO!": Tom lets out several of these upon finding what he thinks is Jo/Emily's body, then even more when it turns out to be Kim Lee's, fed up with the killer going after women he cares about.
  • Black Dude Dies First: The white Jo/Emily is attacked by the killer, but it's the Asian Kim Lee whose body Tom finds outside his house, while Jo/Emily ultimately survives.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Played straight by the Big Bad as Tom is chased to his boat, but averted to the point of being ridiculous earlier in the film when Tom runs out of ammo while on his police boat so he uses the emergency Flare Gun.
  • Call-Back: As Tom and his father chat, his father asks, "What happened to that nurse you were seeing?" Tom replies that "it didn't work out." This is the same nurse murdered later in the film.
  • Calling Card: The killer playing "Little Red Riding Hood" over the phone.
  • The Cameo:
    • Kurt Russell makes a blink-and-you-miss-it appearance as a boatgoer.
    • Tom Atkins makes a brief appearance as Tommy’s uncle.
  • Cat Scare: Tom is looking at a map, reviewing the locations where bodies were dumped, when his cat wanders in and walks over the map. He's annoyed. . . until he sees the bloody footprints the cat has left. He follows the trail outside, where he finds the the body of his coworker/friend Kim Lee. Paired with Break-In Threat when you realize that the killer was that close and could have easily harmed him as well.
  • Catchphrase: "Let me rephrase that" and "Who's the best cop?"
  • Category Traitor: Most of the Pittsburgh Police Department sees Tommy as a “rat” because he broke the “Blue Code of Silence” on Jimmy’s brutality.
  • Christianity is Catholic: Tom crosses himself at the end of the movie, indicating this (the Hardys are Irish).
  • Clear My Name: Tommy's obsession with both sets of serial murders—and the fact that he had a relationship with all of the victims in the current set—leads him to become a suspect.
  • Cool House: Tom lives on a houseboat, not far up the Allegheny River from the city.
  • Dirty Cop: Jimmy. Between his police brutality by day and his work as a Serial Killer by night.
    • Nick too, given that he killed Tommy's father (albeit, by accident) and allowed an innocent man to be arrested for the first set of murders that he knew his son was responsible for and tried to frame ANOTHER innocent man for the second set.
  • Disposable Woman: The film opens with a woman being strangled and her body thrown off a bridge, while the final victim of the first set of murders gets nothing more than a shot of her body falling out of a car trunk—we don't even learn either woman's name. And none of the poor women in the second set seem to serve any purpose other than to cause Tom even more angst and make the second set of murders personal for him—Cheryl, Paula, and Connie were his ex-girlfriends, Kim Lee was his friend/colleague.
  • Dramatic Gun Cock: Tom, as he infiltrates a boat that's been hijacked. As he accosts one of the men and asks him how many others are there, the man refuses to answer. Tom says "let me rephrase that", then cocks the shotgun he's holding.
  • Driven to Suicide: Facing numerous brutality charges after Tom broke the police code of silence and ratted him out, Jimmy Detillo jumps off the same river bridge his mother used to end her life years earlier. Only he was faking it, to go into hiding and throw suspicion of the murders off of him.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Tom joins up with the chase by going the wrong way down Bigelow Boulevard.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: A pickup truck slams into an overturned police car. Boom. A Flare Gun is fired at a fleeing suspect's car. Boom.
  • Fair Cop: Jo Christman/Emily Harper. Kim Lee, too, even though she's more of a dispatcher rather than a cop.
  • Frameup: The man arrested and convicted for the first set of murders (and Tommy's father), based on one person's false claim of seeing him dispose of a body. Then, the second set of murders consists of women whom Tommy had previously had a relationship with. This, coupled with his obsession with the earlier case, eventually makes him the prime suspect. Though Jimmy's primary intention seems to be taunting Tommy by killing the women he once loved and the frameup was just an added bonus. His final murder of his friend/coworker Kim Lee seems to be the only one intentionally meant to set him up—the body is dumped right outside his house, along with the murder weapon
  • Fruit Cart: The police run into a truck loaded with very poorly secured (and obviously empty), cases of Iron City Beer.
  • Grave-Marking Scene: The film concludes with Tom visiting his father's grave before walking off with Jo/Emily and her daughter.
  • Honor Before Reason: Tom's father Vincent is the only one who doesn't condemn him for turning his partner/cousin in for police brutality, reminding him of his motto—"Loyalty above all else, except honor."
  • Hospital Hottie: Nurse Paula, for the brief moments we see her before she's abducted.
  • Houseboat Hero: Tom Hardy lives on one of these.
  • Inspector Javert: Detective Eddie Eiler.
  • Internal Affairs: Jo turns out to be an undercover IA sent to investigate Tom, but winds up testifying on his behalf instead.
  • Ironic Echo: Jimmy Detillo says this to his dad Nick after killing him when it's revealed that Jimmy is wearing a bulletproof vest:
    Jimmy Detillo: Who's the best cop now, huh? Who's the best cop now?
    • And said again by Tom Hardy before shocking him in the mouth with his tazer gun in the river:
    Tom Hardy: Who's the best cop now?
  • It's Personal: The second set of murder victims are women Tom once loved, culminating in that of his good friend Kim Lee.
  • Jump Scare: Played twice as Jo returns to her apartment after a crappy day. First, she's startled by the sound of her ringing phone as she starts to open her closet door. As she turns to answer it, the still-unseen killer barges out of her closet to attack her.
  • Killer Cop: Jimmy is revealed as the Polish Hills Strangler and the murderer of Tommy’s ex girlfriends at the near end of the movie.
    • Nick kills Tommy's father, albeit by accident.
  • Kindhearted Cat Lover: Hardy
  • The Last DJ: Already resented for breaking the code of silence, Tom's claim that his father was murdered by one of his fellow officers turns out to be the final straw that ends his tenure in Homicide. Ultimately, he is proven right.
  • Lemming Cops: Man, these cops just won't give up in the chase in the beginning of the movie, even at horrible damage to their cars, and driving off a hill!
  • Made of Explodium: When a TV and VCR are pushed into a wall on a cart, they explode and spark.
    • As well as the cop car that blows up when hit by another.
  • Made of Indestructium: The bad guy has his car shot up by the A-Team Firing listed above, then it drives off a ten-foot ledge and lands in a parking lot. Then it drives away, continuing the chase.
  • Manly Tears: Tom upon seeing that his father has been murdered, after Jimmy jumps from the bridge, and after he finds Kim Lee's body.
  • Meaningful Name: The judge is named "Helen Kramer", which is very close to "Helen Keller". Justice is blind, you know.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Jo gets a lengthy scene in nothing but her underwear.
  • Murderer P.O.V.: Several as the killer plays cat-and-mouse with the cops, as he stalks a victim, and an especially creepy one as he watches Tom and Jo make love.
  • Nepotism: Tom and his father are 5th and 4th generation cops. Tom's uncle and cousins are all on the force. They all hold some rank, too. One of them is "the best cop", too
  • Never Found the Body: Jimmy commits suicide by jumping off a bridge into a river, just like his mother did. His body is never found. However unlike his mother, he survives and lays low for a few years.
  • Newscaster Cameo: Ken Rice and Sally Wiggin continued to broadcast in the Pittsburgh area for over 20 years.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Dennis Farina with his pronounced Chicago accent and Bruce Willis, Tom Sizemore and Robert Pastorelli with their equally obvious New York City and New Jersey accents. Problem was, they are playing characters who were born and raised in Pittsburgh.
  • Noodle Implements: The remote control police car is used every time by the Polish Hill Strangler each time he strikes - but the only people who ever know this are the Strangler, the victim and the audience. Why play with a remote control car before leaving your calling card? What's the point?
  • Officer O'Hara: Tom and his father are Irish.
    • Truth in Television as Pittsburgh has the second largest percentage of Irish Americans in the United States.
  • Police Are Useless: Tom feels this way because he doesn't know who he can trust with his suspicions. As it turns out, he's absolutely right. To his credit, at least one of the officers apologizes when he realizes his mistake.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: When Jimmy jumps off the bridge, you can tell that something is 'off' when he laughs in a childlike way. Even more so when he tries to kill everyone, gleefully treating it like a game, as well as boasting that he was the best cop, and that Tom could never beat him, and has an enormous impulse problem, and plays with a toy police car, even during his murders.
  • Railroad Tracks of Doom:
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: Tom is demoted from detective to River patrol for his insistence that a cop is responsible for the murders of the women and his father.
  • Red Herring: Danny, who had just gotten back from California when the killings began again anew. There's also the moment Tom finds a body outside his home. He's devastated, thinking that it's Jo. . .and just as devastated to discover it's his co-worker and friend Kim Lee. It's quite shocking for the audience as well—it's Jo who we saw being attacked just a few minutes earlier, and unlike the other murdered women, Kim Lee was merely a friend, not lover.
  • Self-Made Orphan: Jimmy kills his own father when he tries to prevent him from killing Tom, Danny and Jo.
  • Serial Killer: Who the cops are searching for throughout the film.
  • Sexy Shirt Switch: Jo pulls on what is presumably Tom's shirt (it's much too big for her) after spending the night at his place.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Tom continues to investigate the Polish Hill Strangler, despite no longer working in Homicide. This includes stealing files from Homicide.
  • Stop, or I Will Shoot!: Tom and Jo see what they think is a wrapped body being thrown into the water. They immediately pursue the suspect, ignoring the obvious question of whether the possible body in the package thrown in the river may still be alive, and fire upon the suspect with a shotgun and a FlareGun just because he isn't stopping when asked.
  • Straw Loser: Sacco, Tom's original partner in river patrol, who exists only to fall off the back of boats. He doesn't do much to deserve it, he's just there for it.
  • Stunt Double: The man "jumping" Tom's boat off the dam is rather obviously not Bruce Willis.
  • Television Geography:
    • To locals, the chase scene route at the beginning kind of makes sense, sorta. The tunnels they go through are about a mile and a half from the route they take through downtown, and they drive along notoriously time-consuming routes.
    • Also the Establishing Shot of the courthouse isn't in Pittsburgh at all, it's the New York State Supreme Court.
  • Villain Opening Scene: The movie begins with the Polish Hill Strangler killing a woman before tossing her body off a dam.
  • You Wouldn't Shoot Me: Used twice, in a flashback and the standoff in the cabin.