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Three Strikes and You're.....
by Jon Schuller

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I enjoy underdog movies, especially when the central character having gone through their own personal hell, several times not only survives but comes out a hero. Maybe they've saved a life or two; maybe they've solved an old mystery; maybe they helped someone in need who'd lost all hope; maybe they became the person they'd always wanted to be. In real life we all face, sooner or later, a difficult moment, a "test" of our strengths and how we face adversity. True, many people say "it's only a movie" but my beliefs tell me that films reflect what and who we are (or were) and sometimes give a powerfully realistic view of life. Many real people have had movies made of their lives film bios and we find ourselves cheering them on as they conquer their personal demons and triumph in the end. Why not? Our world is instantaneous information and mostly, these days, bad news. We can all use an ordinary hero now and then.

In September, 1993, a movie titled Striking Distance, premiered with (what I consider to be) an outstanding cast. It starred Bruce Willis as Tom Hardy, Sarah Jessica Parker as Officer Jo Christman, Dennis Farina as Captain Nick Detillo, Tom Sizemore as Danny Detillo, Robert Pastorelli as Jimmy
Detillo, John Mahoney as Capt. Vincent Hardy, Andre Braugher as District Attorney Frank Morris and Timothy Busfield as Officer Sacco.

Tom Hardy is a Pittsburgh police detective and has given testimony against his cousin, Jimmy Detillo, for excessive force. Tom is part of the Hardy police family as well as being related to the Detillos, also an old Pittsburgh police family. He's become persona non grata for his actions. He and his father, Vincent, get a call that the Polish Hill strangler has been spotted and a large chase ensues (a good movie chase, by the way) in which their police vehicle collides with the suspect's and they both roll downhill. When Tom awakes, he finds his father's dead and the suspect has escaped. Cousin Jimmy threatens suicide and jumps off a bridge, the body never being found. Two years pass and Tom winds up re-assigned to the Pittsburgh River Rescue Squad; he drinks a lot. A body has been found in the river and it's an ex-girlfriend of Tom. He gets a new partner on his boat, a female officer, Jo Christman.

A nurse, also another one of Tom's ex-girlfriends, is abducted and her final screams are heard by Tom on the phone. He asserts to everyone that the Polish Hill Strangler is back and
he says it's a policeman. His unpopularity only grows worse, especially from his Uncle Nick (Jimmy's father), who says that Tom's theories are ridiculous and dangerous and he should have learned his lesson by now.

Tom and Jo go to the Policeman's Ball, even though Tom initially reluctant knows no one wants him there. Jo insists and they meet Tom's family there, including his Uncle Fred (Tom Atkins), a Pittsburgh police officer. A fight erupts as the men take sides after a lot of drinking. Jo takes Tom back to his boat/home and they wind up in bed.

On patrol the next night Tom and Jo observe someone dumping a body into the river. They pursue the man escaping in his car and, as Tom fires a flare, the car explodes. Divers retrieve a rug but there's no body inside. More embarrassment and ridicule for Tom. Tom is summoned to court for an official hearing about his conduct and discovers that Jo is a State Police investigator named Emily Harper. She testifies he's a fine officer with no evidence of wrongdoing.

Then Emily is kidnapped from her apartment as Tom discovers yet another body floating in the water near his boat; this victim is also someone he knows. He thinks Danny has been killing all the women as
revenge for Jimmy's apparent suicide. Tom goes to an old family cabin, Detillos Roost, to find Danny. Tom is knocked unconscious and wakes up to find himself, Emily and Danny tied to chairs and Jimmy Detillo alive and discussing how he survived his jump into the river. He's killing the women to frame Tom. He's obviously deranged and threatens to kill all of them.

Nick walks in, tells Jimmy to drop the gun. Jimmy tells Nick to admit that John Hardy, Tom's dad, was murdered to cover up for the escape of the real Strangler, Jimmy. Jimmy shoots his father, Tom escapes his bonds and pursues Jimmy in a boat on the river. He catches Jimmy and kills him. Tom gets re-instated as a detective.

There were many production problems getting this film made, the details of which aren't interesting to me. I watch a movie and decide if I like it or not, if it told its story and whether the actors were good or not. The critics weren't kind to it either. Truly, I don't care about behind-the-scenes gossip and opinions. Striking Distance is exciting and thought-provoking, and the characters are interesting and well-defined. The solution to so much of the controversies surrounding so many films is rather simple: you watch, enjoy and decide.

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Cinema Savant
Every other Thursday

My views on an eclectic mix of films and personalties, past and present; emotional interpretations; some laughs, some cries.

Other Columns
Other columns by Jon Schuller:

A Story of Bravery, Truth and Devotion

This One Is#9 To Be Precise

It's More Than Just a Number, Isn't It?

Better Explain All of the Effects To Me.

Another Unlikely Friendship. Again.

All Columns

Jon Schuller
I am a former New Jersey native, living in Charlotte, N.C. for almost 30 years. I am a lifelong movie lover with lots of movie trivia knowledge and soundtracks in my CD collection. I enjoy sharing my love of films with everyone and have so many fond memories growing up in darkened movie theaters. I have been married 50 years (as of December 22, 2018) and we both share a passion for film (and each other of course).

If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to Jon Schuller by clicking here.

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