The Films of Rowdy Herrington
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Striking Distance (November 24/15)
Directed by Rowdy Herrington, Striking Distance follows Philadelphia cop Tom Hardy (Bruce Willis) as he attempts to solve a series of murders that have grown increasingly personal. It's clear that Striking Distance fares best in its surprisingly compelling first half, as filmmaker Herrington effectively sets the stage for what should have been a tight little thriller - with the ongoing inclusion of better-than-average action sequences perpetuating the movie's watchable atmosphere. (The opening half hour contains, for example, a fantastic car chase and an exciting, tense raid on a hijacked tugboat.) It's only as the film moves into its distressingly sluggish midsection that one's interest begins to flag, with scripters Herrington and Marty Kaplan offering up an almost excessively familiar narrative that grows more and more tedious as time progresses. The less-than-enthralling vibe is compounded by a curious lack of action and decidedly anticlimactic final stretch, as the film devolves into an oddly by-the-numbers endeavor that indulges in the most generic and hoariest of cliches. (Everything involving the killer is especially guilty of this, as the character delivers a long speech about his crimes and keeps popping up after seemingly killed.) Striking Distance's failure is, in the end, especially disappointing given the first act's effectiveness and potential, with Herrington's stylish direction and Willis' strong performance ultimately unable to compensate for a hopelessly hackneyed storyline.
A Murder of Crows
The Stickup (July 3/04)
Contemporary video stores are full of unknown little movies like The Stickup - movies that are, on the whole, awful. While finding a good one is a daunting task - think needle-in-a-haystack - they are out there, and The Stickup is a great example of a film that's unfairly fallen through the cracks. The less said about the plot the better, but in a nutshell, the story follows cop-turned-bank-robber Parker (James Spader) as he holes up with a bitter nurse named Natalie (Leslie Stefanson). Also thrown into the mix is a determined cop on Parker's tail - who happens to be Natalie's ex-husband - and a rookie FBI agent looking to make a name for himself. The Stickup's been written and directed by Rowdy Herrington, who also helmed the underrated Bruce Willis thriller Striking Distance. Herrington's got a great ear for dialogue, something's that's particularly evident in Parker and Natalie's initial barroom encounter. Their conversation resembles something out of a '40s film noir, and the ensuing relationship is just as compelling. It certainly doesn't hurt that Spader and Stefanson are just about perfect in their respective roles, while the supporting cast is peppered with familiar and not-so-familiar faces. Herrington toys around with flashbacks and our perception of reality to mostly positive effect, though a late-in-the-film revelation might be a tad too convenient. It's a minor quibble for an otherwise superb film, one that's certainly worth tracking down.
I Witness casts Jeff Daniels as James Rhodes, a Human Rights Investigator who finds himself caught up in a Mexican murder mystery after 27 villagers are found dead near the American border. It's pretty dry stuff, admittedly, but director Rowdy Herrington does a nice job of punctuating the proceedings with surprisingly exciting bits of action (including a gripping chase sequence through Tijuana's back streets). Daniels' superb performance certainly goes a long way towards keeping things interesting, though James Spader is undoubtedly at his scene-stealing best here as a smarmy government agent. Ultimately, however, there's just no denying that the less-than-enthralling material - coupled with a storyline that's sporadically a little too convoluted for its own good - prevents I Witness from becoming anything more than a mildly entertaining time-waster (which is a shame, really, given the effectiveness of Herrington's last collaboration with Spader - the forgotten 2001 thriller The Stickup).
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