Monday, September 24, 2012

Assault on Precinct 13 (2005)

I'm a HUGE John Carpenter fan. I've liked/loved just about every flick he's made (with the exception of Memoirs of an Invisible Man and Elvis), and one of his first films, 1976's Assault on Precinct 13, is one of my personal faves. That minimalist siege film, which was actually a pseudo-remake of Rio Bravo, was made on a shoestring budget and still is the epitome of good B-movie filmmaking. It had great characters, lots of action and it never tried to be anything other than what it was: a film about a group of people trapped by faceless thugs in a rundown police station.

This remake certainly has a larger budget and a cast of famous faces like Ethan Hawke, Lawrence Fishburne, Maria Bello, Drea De Matteo, Brian Dennehy, John Leguizamo, Gabriel Byrne and Ja Rule, but like it's predecessor it never tries to be anything more than it is: a film about a group of people trapped by faceless thugs in a rundown police station.
Crime boss Marion Bishop (Fishburne) has been captured on New Year's Eve and while in transport to a federal prison his bus is forced to stop at Precinct 13, a police station that is in the process of being decommissioned, by a nasty snowstorm. After settling into his new cage a group of masked assailants fortify themselves outside with the intent of getting into the station and killing everyone inside, including Bishop. Commander Roenick (Hawke) has no other choice than to arm the prisoner in order for them to stand a chance of surviving the night.

The premise is the same as the original film, but this time the film pulls no punches. Most of the action happened off screen or in quick little gunfights in the original. That’s certainly not the case here! We get plenty of in-your-face action, violence and mayhem. And the most shocking aspect is that people you don't expect to die actually die! It's freaking awesome!
Visually there's only so much you can do when a movie takes place in one room, but director Jean-François Richet keeps things interesting with plenty of cool shots and by getting some excellent performances out of his actors (even Drea De Matteo manages to charm). If the opening scene where Roenick is in the middle of an undercover drug deal doesn't rope you in with it's quick cuts and frantic style, which is totally off putting for the start of flick, you've walked into the wrong friggin’ movie.

 While there are some seriously cliched moments and ideas stolen right out of other action films (a death is taken right out of Die Hard 2), it is still worth your time and money. And for an action/thriller released in January (when all the garbage that didn't make the cut for the previous year is dropped to die a quick death) that's a rare thing indeed.

4 out of 5

*written 1/19/05

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