Assault on Precinct 13
Carpenter was still a pretty unknown writer and director when he released a
modest film in 1976 called Assault on Precinct 13. He had made
a pretty well-respected but overlooked little science fiction film called
Dark Star a couple of years before, but he was still two years away from
his breakthrough horror film Halloween. But this middle film
was the epitome of tight-budgeted B-film making. It was a
modernization of Howard Hawk's Rio Bravo, in which a group of lawmen
and criminals must band together to fight off a mysterious gang that has
placed them under siege. There was a cast of unknowns who stayed
unknown (the star was the long forgotten journeyman Austin Stoker and the
only other actors there is even a chance that you've heard of in the cast
are character actors Tony Burton and Charles Cyphers and former child star
Kim Richards.) Assault on Precinct 13 eventually became a bit of
a cult favorite — it was pretty much ignored in the theaters but it caught
the public's attention when it was played over and over in the early years
Twenty-nine years later comes this remake, which adds on the star-power,
spends more money on the sets and the effects and deepens the plot (the bad
guys are no longer anonymous embodiments of evil, now we know exactly who
they are, even if we may have a hard time believing it.). Do these
improvements make the story better? No, the original is still a better
film, but this film is an effective thriller for the most part, nonetheless.
Ethan Hawke (leaving behind the thoughtful drama of Before Sunset and
returning to his Training Day adventure mode) plays Jake Roenick, a
decorated undercover cop who lost his nerve when a drug sting goes bad and
costs the life of his two partners. He takes an office job as night
Captain of one of Detroit's worst precincts, where he can drink and pop
pills in peace and not really worry about the danger of the streets.
is New Years Eve and the precinct is set to be demolished the next day.
Detroit is being hit by a whopper of a snowstorm and the place only has a
skeleton staff, a couple of cops (Brian Dennehy and Matt Craven), a horny
secretary (Drea DeMatteo) and Roenick's police shrink (Maria Bello) who is
stranded there by the storm. All expect a quiet night until a bus
which is transporting some convicts has to come in to the station to get off
the dangerous roads.
group is made up of two cops (Dorian Harewood and Kim Coates) and some petty
criminals (played by John Leguizamo, rapper Ja Rule and Aisha Hinds).
What they didn't count on was that on that bus was Marion Bishop (Laurence
Fishburne), a legendary local organized crime figure. Soon after
midnight, the cops find that their house is being attacked by some bad cops
led by Gabriel Byrne. This leads to a series of scary and
claustrophobic scenes in which the good guys have to join an uneasy truce
with the convicts to fight off the attacking hordes.
However, even the most sympathetic viewer can't overlook some truly huge
plot holes on display here. For example, the convicts are forced to
stop at Precinct 13 and the building is totally cut off because the city is
suffering through the worst snow storm in years. Problem is, when they
are attacked, despite the wildly blowing snow, the parking lot has maybe an
inch or two on the ground. People can walk around in the extreme cold
in just light coats (and in the cases of the women, a slinky evening gown
and a micro-mini skirt.) Also, even though Precinct 13 is smack dab in
the middle of the ghettos of Detroit, the final scenes take place in a
forest that just a couple of blocks away. Granted, I don't know
Detroit all that well, but I think I would have heard if there was a forest
in the middle of the city. Not to mention that dozens of the bad guy cops go out and
get themselves killed so that they won't have to go to jail. Granted,
neither is a good option, and at least at first they probably thought it was
unlikely that they would die. Still, when the bodies started piling up, you can't help but
think that if you had to choose most people would rather go to jail than
die. I know that you don't go to adventure movies for their logic, but
still that sounds like sloppy filmmaking.
plot holes don't ruin the movie, they just temper the enjoyment. If
you take it on its own terms, the new version of Assault on Precinct 13
has enough scares and thrills to make it worth seeing. Just don't
think about it too much.
Copyright ©2005 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.Posted:
May 5, 2005.