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Imagine yourself on a darkened stage, standing in the center of a bright, blinding spotlight. Before you, only vaguely discernible against the shadows, is an audience waiting anxiously for you to begin. After a string of box office disappointments and financial failures (Hudson Hawk and Death Becomes Her to name a few), the acclaimed action star was in need of a comeback vehicle. And one came to him in the form of Quentin Tarantino's juicy exploitation revival, Pulp Fiction.
Willis followed that film with a long line of successful hits including Die Hard: With a Vengeance, The Jackal and The Fifth Element.
But shortly before Pulp Fiction returned Willis to his beloved renowned star status, the action hero starred in an action-mystery vehicle called Striking Distance.
Much of the film takes place inside Peterson's mind as he, via Bronson, addresses one such imaginary theatre full of eager listeners who applaud enthusiastically his strange and violent tale. Bronson is, after all, a character piece, through and through, with relatively little story to tell aside from Peterson's pathological need for attention and recognition.
But once Hardy openly announces that he suspects the killer is a cop, he's shunned by his peers and demoted to river patrol.
The brutal beatings, prison riots and failed attempts at a normal life that find him weaving in and out of jail are only ever the external stage for the life that Peterson lives in his mind. Two years pass, and the killings start back up – with clues pointing to Hardy himself.
This forces Hardy and his new partner, Jo Christman (Sarah Jessica Parker), to solve the crime before the killer strikes again. For all the characters who march in and out of the film, Bronson is very much a one-man show, narrated by Peterson to the adoring crowd that exists only in his mind. Hardy's performance expertly blends the complex series of emotions and behaviors that drive Peterson forward -- fear, anger, brutality, uncertainty, vulnerability, confusion, etc. It's incredibly stupid, wrought with plot holes, silly melodrama, dumb characters and cliches at every corner.
It's an impossible demand -- to make this murderous psychopath into someone you might feel some degree of sympathy for -- but Hardy manages to pull off the impossible without any discernible effort. But the picture is made watchable thanks to a magnificent cast of respected character actors (Dennis Farina, Tom Sizemore, Timothy Busfield, Brion James and Andre Braugher, just to name a few) and a few surprisingly exciting action sequences – some of which oddly mirror action scenes seen in the third Die Hard, which arrived two years later.

It's a riveting, disarming performance, a character who, like a pot ready to boil over, could erupt at any moment with unexpected consequences. Willis sulks for most of the picture, grimacing at his enemies and drinking his way through scenes. He comes to life once his partner, and romantic interest, enters the picture, but a tired third act "damsel-in-distress" twist ruins their chemistry and flattens out the film. Image depth and details are fairly striking despite the persistent haze of both film grain and digital noise that bombards the print. Parker's character is paper-thin, mostly delegated to the loving girlfriend role, which she handles with ease. Other print blemishes like dust, dirt or scratches pop up occasionally (mostly white specks), but none are all that distracting. It's a shame the screenwriters couldn't make these characters just a little more interesting and fresh.
The standard definition encode isn't entirely pristine, marred by some macroblocking during busier sequences, and a faint hint of ghosting, but such flaws are expected with a grainy print. While Bronson is quite removed from a reference presentation, this DVD accurately presents the film the way it was meant to be seen -- nasty, gritty and grainy. Magnolia delivers a wonderfully immersive listening experience packed with dazzling acoustic touches that create a real sense of isolation and dreariness. Instead, it just raises more questions and ultimately leads to much confusion and even some frustration.
Bronson's methodic, creepy voice infects the center channel, dominating this intoxicating presentation. It seems as though the screenwriters wanted to surprise the audience, but they go about it in such a way that it makes the rest of the picture feel dumb in hindsight.
If Tom Hardy is supposed to be such a great cop, why didn't he see who the killer was a mile away?
Bass is a touch underused in spots, but it does come into play during the film's grimier moments. There's plenty of action, a decent mystery and few solid performances from likable stars and character actors. Striking Distance is definitely not the comeback vehicle Bruce Willis probably hoped it would be, but it is a great way to blow a Saturday afternoon.

Leave your brain at the door, relax and enjoy the dumb, slapdash action and mystery this picture has to offer.
Thankfully though, the interviews and featurettes mostly make up for its unfortunate absence. Still, this BD is eons better than the DVD, with better details, even fleshtones, solid colors and more depth.
It does appear as though contrast was popped slightly though, which allows some digital noise to sneak into the print from time to time, most notable during daytime sequences (I first spotted it during the opening car chase).
The print is surprisingly free of dust and dirt, barring a few very minor specks throughout. On the whole, this hi-def release is a solid upgrade from the DVD, but definitely nothing to write home about. It's not as insightful as one would hope, but it's still worth a look just to hear from those who actually know Bronson. Given how intense and explosive this film often is, I was surprised by how subdued and uneventful this hi-res mix was.
Dialogue is clean (mostly locked in the center channel), but surrounds are front-loaded with very few rear elements (rears are typically used for score here). Just about every stone is unturned in this informative feature that basically serves as the stand-in for the disc's missing commentary track. Bass is uneven, chiming in only a few times, which proved somewhat frustrating given how many explosions this film boasts. Magnolia also packs the disc with trailers and promos, including the film's own theatrical trailer.
Not surprisingly, all fans get are a bunch of trailers for other Sony films and Sony's standard BD-Live web portal.

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17.02.2016 admin

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