Archive for the ‘Assault on Precinct 13 (2005)’ Category

211 – Assault on Precinct 13

June 25, 2005

This stylish remake of John Carpenter’s 1976 low-budget thriller is a fair shade better than most remakes, nearly approaching the edginess of the original. If not for the bigger budget, it might have even been as good.

It’s New Year's Eve at dilapidated Precinct 13, which is closing down. Just about all on-duty cops have been reassigned to other precincts, and all that’s left are Sergeant Jake Roenick (Ethan Hawke), Jasper O’Shea (Brian Dennehy), and Iris Ferry (Drea de Matteo). And all is pretty quiet, in the midst of a thick snowstorm, until a bus of convicts is rerouted to lucky Precinct 13. One of the convicts is gangster Marion Bishop (Larry Fishburne), who’s due to testify in front of a grand jury.

Wouldn’t you know it, the placid precinct is infiltrated by two masked men who are quickly thwarted by Roenick. The intruders – quickly joined outside by a posse of similarly disguised thugs – aren’t there to bust Bishop out, however – they’re there to kill him. And they’re not criminals, exactly; they’re cops.

So Roenick has to fend off the corrupt cops and keep his team from killing each other. He has to rely on the talents of the other convicts and must explicitly trust Bishop – the baddies outside have superior numbers, headed by Marcus Duvall (Gabriel Byrne), and they’ll stop at nothing to kill Bishop, along with everyone else in the building.

Hawke, who looked pretty handy with a gun in Training Day, is really good here, as his Jake keeps his head while all those around him lose theirs. And, lucky fella, he has not one but two hot women to serve and protect – de Matteo’s Iris and Maria Bello’s Alex Sabian, Roenick’s shrink. Toss in Dennehy as the grizzled veteran about to call it a career, John Leguizamo as a hyperactive junkie, and Ja Rule as… well, Ja Rule, and you have all flavors of cliche.

But funny thing about this unoriginal piece of work – it’s pretty good. Director Jean-Francois Richet does an admirable job with the atmosphere, with close-up cinema verite angles that make you feel the cops are breathing down your neck. The movie’s well paced, too, with little letup in action; luckily, there are no slow moments of restful contemplation. No sir, this is not an action movie for tenderhearts.

Among the supporting case, de Matteo, Ja Rule, Leguizamo, and especially Fishburne come off best; not so much for Bello, Byrne, and Dennehy, although they don’t seem to have had much to work with. Bello’s character in particular is annoying and probably didn’t need to be in the movie, although her raison d’etre is apparent late in the film. Byrne looks as stonefaced as always, as evocative as a damp sponge. But that’s Gabriel Byrne’s own raison d’etre.

Intense, well-directed and filmed, this remake of a remake (following 1959’s Rio Bravo) is likeable on many levels. If the idea of a remake was tackled with as small of a budget as its 1976 predecessor, this might have been quite a work of art. As it is, still very entertaining.

Assault on Precinct 13: ***