ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13
It's easy for me to say I'm a fan of John
Carpenter. As a director he has done some very memorable films.
Whether it's horror, or just social commentary, Carpenter knows how to make a
statement with his work. Now I must admit, his efforts in the last 15
years have been less than perfect, but the early films still leave a lasting
impression. One of my favorite JC movies is one that is lesser known by
most. ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 came out in 1976, and was his first widely
released film, predating HALLOWEEN by two years. What makes Carpenter's
PRECINCT great is it's simplicity, and undeniable tension created by the
situation the characters end up in. In many ways that film is where John
proved himself a master of horror, despite the fact it's not intended to be a
horror film. Some people even make a comparison to the zombie film
genre when discussing it. Now I'm already not a big fan of remakes, and there are some
films out there that just don't need to be updated, at least in my opinion.
So when I heard ASSAULT was being redone, I wasn't very excited. But
these are the days of sequels and remakes. Hollywood is out of original
ideas. Everything new is just a variation on something old. So
bearing that in mind, Rogue Pictures has released a new ASSAULT ON PRECINCT
13, starring Ethan Hawke and Laurence Fishburne.
movie opens with
undercover cop Jake Roenick (Ethan Hawke) trying to complete a deal with some
rather shady characters. When one of his undercover partners is
recognized, the deal goes bad. Really bad. Cut to eight months
later. Roenick is working desk duty as a Sergeant in a police precinct.
It's New Year's Eve, and this particular building, Precinct 13, is about to be
shut down. Jake still hasn't let go of the emotional scarring left from
his botched undercover job, and even sees a lovely psychiatrist (Maria Bello)
on a regular basis to deal with his feelings. On this final night at the
precinct, it looks as if Jake will celebrating fairly low-key with the
sex-crazed secretary (Drea de Matteo) and the resident veteran cop Jasper (Brian Dennehy).
Across town the city's most notorious gangster, Marion Bishop (Laurence
Fishburne), gets caught by police after murdering an undercover cop... in a
church of all places! With ice and snow making the roads impossible to
navigate, the police transport carrying Bishop and others is ordered to drop
their prisoners at the closest precinct, which of course is Precinct 13.
What is meant to be a temporary stop turns pretty permanent, when an army of
crooked cops show up trying desperately to take out Bishop. Apparently
they can't afford to let him live, since he can blow the whistle on their
dirty deals. Led by a sadistic man named Marcus Duvall (Gabriel Byrne),
this squad is heavily armed, and prepared to take out everyone in the building
to accomplish their goal. So now the unsuspecting inhabitants of
Precinct 13 must make a stand in order to stay alive. Sergeant Roenick
even arms the criminals, since he needs all the help he can get.
The original film was nowhere near as complicated with it's plot. The
surviving elements are bad guys surrounding a shut down police station, and
cops working with prisoners to try and stay alive. That's pretty much it.
This new film makes things a bit more interesting. The two main
characters, played by Hawke and Fishburne, are given much more interesting
back stories. They're not random men thrown into a crappy situation, but
rather tortured souls who must draw on their own instincts to stay alive.
I'm pretty impressed with what they did here. Don't get me wrong, it's
still essentially just an action flick, but it's done pretty nicely. Hawke
plays a very flawed hero, which to me is the best kind. He's got
emotional problems, disturbing memories, and personal feelings that affect his
communication with others. Fishburne is basically a total bad-ass
gangster, but even he has enough character layers to keep things interesting.
Some of the supporting cast isn't used quite as well. John Leguizamo, Ja
Rule, and Aisha Hinds play the other prisoners caught up in this nightmare
They're a nice contrast to the cool-headed Fishburne, but sometimes they just
don't seem to work. Leguizamo is trying REALLY hard to be funny and
quirky here, and it kind of gets annoying after a while. Maria Bello
gets some nice moments, as a psychiatrist with plenty of her own problems,
which come out when things get crazy. Gabriel Byrne is somewhat wasted.
He's good at being bad, and has one or two moments of truly brilliant evil.
Unfortunately he's used fairly little. It's understandable that the
focus is the people in the station, but I could've used a bit more of the bad
guy, or at least maybe a bit more back story on him. I really liked the
fact that this movie is hardcore with it's violence. When people get
shot, they get shot graphically. If someone gets stabbed, it's intense.
There's more than a couple of scenes of very intense violence, and it works.
Films like these shouldn't pull punches, and this one doesn't. There are
a few nice twists too. Perhaps the only weak area is the ending, which
kind of drags on a bit, and tries too hard to leave things open for a sequel.
Aside from that the film is pretty entertaining. The director,
Jean-François Richet, handles
the action very well, and gives us some consistently cool shots no matter what
the scene may be. It's his first American film, and he's certainly
proven himself a competent action director here. Trying to compare the
quality of this with Carpenter's film isn't really feasible. They're too
different. But that's not a bad thing. If you're going to remake a
movie, at least put a new spin on it. There are a handful of moments
that can easily be called direct nods to the original, but for the most part
we're treated to something pretty fresh. Overall it's a nice update.
Aside from a few flaws, I rather enjoyed it. If you like action movies,
this is worth taking a look at.
BIGFANBOY.com score - On a scale of
1 to 10, 10 being the best, I give ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 a 7.
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