Oh, 'Striking Distance.' You really are a crummy movie.
This absurd serial killer action thriller about a Pittsburgh river patrolman (played by an unusually bland Bruce Willis) who solves a vast murder mystery involving (gasp!) policemen, seems almost too asinine to review.
Sure, things happen. There's a car chase at the beginning, for instance. You might say, "Hey, car chases are cool!" This is true. But under the direction of a fellow named Rowdy Herrington (also responsible for the similarly ridiculous but far more charming 'Road House'), the cars hop down hills like hydraulic low-riders. It's all downhill from there (har har).
Elsewhere, Willis beds his comely new partner, played by a young Sarah Jessica Parker. Of course, the score, up until this point a punchy but anonymous action track, turns into a jazzy soft-core porn bit. Later, of course, it turns out Parker is a spy for the corrupt cops. Oh, spoiler alert.
Other things that struck me (get it?) while watching 'Striking Distance' for the first time since it debuted on HBO in the early 1990's: it has a surprisingly strong supporting cast that includes Dennis Farina, Tom Sizemore (before he was a total mess), Robert Pastorelli, Timothy Busfield (who gets repeatedly knocked into the water by Bruce Willis - oh the hilarity), Andre Braugher, and John Mahoney, as Willis' father.At one point Willis gains access to a bad guy's barge, knocking out a thug and saying "Land shark," a reference to a 'Saturday Night Live' sketch that parodied 'Jaws' (from way back in 1975 - nothing like topical humor); when Willis asks Sizemore what life on the west coast is like, he says, "'The Simpsons' are on an hour earlier" - CLASSIC.
About a decade after 'Striking Distance's' release, Bruce Willis publicly apologized to the movie going public on the film's behalf. He's right. It sucks. Big time. There is no reason for anybody to watch this film in the year 2009, unless you're severely inebriated and/or have concocted an accompanying drinking game (take a shot every time Bruce Willis cries! Take a shot every time Bruce Willis shows up in a doorway scowling! Take a shot every time you see a toy police car zip across the villain's floor). Even more confounding is why, exactly, Sony chose to release this while so many great films are sitting in the vault, waiting to receive the high def treatment.
In conclusion: 'Striking Distance' isn't good enough to be an actual enjoyable movie, and not bad enough to be a camp classic. It's just lousy.
The MPEG-4 AVC 1080p transfer isn't as bad as the movie, but it's far from great.
There is a fair amount of grain throughout the entire movie, particularly noticeable in sweeping shots of the city in the daylight. The nighttime shots fare better, with a great amount of depth. Generally, blacks look deep and skin tones are solid but far from a knockout.
There aren't a noticeable number of technical glitches, aside from some haloing and noise, but the transfer is far too soft to give it a solid recommendation. The movie was shot poorly, going for a kind of grittiness that just comes across as phony and drab. Wide establishing shots suffer the worst, with interiors and close-ups faring somewhat better.
This is probably the best the movie has ever looked on video, but this transfer is still pretty crummy.
Faring slightly better is the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track. Dialogue is always clear and well prioritized, no matter what the accent (Dennis Farina) or mumbling delivery (Bruce Willis), with strong front channel support.
There's more ambience than you'd think with this kind of film (mostly during the "thriller" moments of this schizophrenic film), but it could have been sharper and more focused. As it stands, in these quieter scenes, the midrange can become muddled. In the aforementioned sex scene the score sounds tinny and weak.
Action scenes are fairly dynamic, with the surround tracks being vitally utilized, but the upswing in volume is annoying. (Similarly, the score fluctuates in volume depending on the scene.) Again: the action sequences do have a fair amount of punch, but honestly, but they aren't impressive in the slightest. This is a solid, workmanlike mix, but nothing outstanding. At all.
Accompanying the English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track are French Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Portuguese Dolby TrueHD 5.1, and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes as well as subtitles in English, English SDH, French, Portuguese, and Spanish.
None. Previews that play when the disc starts do not count as "extras." Sorry, Sony.
Even though the AV on this disc is fair, the complete lack of extras and general lousiness of the movie equals an unequivocal "skip it." Unless, of course, you concoct your very own 'Striking Distance' drinking game (take a shot every time Bruce Willis knocks Timothy Busfield into the water!). Then it's kind of a must own.