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Nowehere near as good as the original, but worth a viewing
7/10 A remake of John Carpenter's superior film of the same title from 1976, Assault on Precinct 13 concerns a siege on a largely abandoned police station, which is related to the presence of a notorious criminal, Marion Bishop (Laurence Fishburne). It's left up to a ragtag group of police employees and criminals to defend themselves.4 years ago
I should start by noting that I absolutely love Carpenter's original film. In my view it is one of his best, perfectly capturing the suburban desolation of 1970s Los Angeles, and exquisitely suspenseful and horrifying, even though it's not really a horror film. Despite that, when this remake of Assault on Precinct 13 began, I had high hopes for it. The first scene is well directed, well shot, with excellent dialogue. It turns into an intense action scene at just the right moment, and results in some realistic, gritty deaths. The opening is as good as anything in the Carpenter film.
Unfortunately, Assault on Precinct 13's excellence ended right there. It's not exactly a bad film--I enjoyed it more often than not, but it does have more than its share of flaws. In the end, my rating average out to a 7 out of 10. Recommendable, but with reservations.
The first problem is that director Jean-Francois Richet tries to do too much--too much backstory, too many characters, too many over-the-top characters, too many quick cuts, too much shaky hand-held camera work, too many "big action moves", too many explosions, too many settings, and it's too dark. That the film is often so quickly edited and dark makes it too often difficult to see what's going on in the action scenes. Carpenter's film succeeded by being very taut, economical, sober and logical in its directorial style. Richet tries to one-up the original by forgoing all of those qualities. By the second or third scene, I was fairly confused. Superfluous characters were popping in and out, people were mumbling dialogue, and there was a whole complex backstory being hinted at and not spelled out very well.
The brutal shooting near the beginning of the original film, which sets off the whole sequence of events, was dropped--that thread was completely removed from the film. It was lamentable in that this new Assault loses much of the simple, sensible drive the thread provided, and it was surely a decision based on political correctness. Likewise, Bishop is not allowed to be a clear-cut bad guy here. That saps some of the effectiveness out of his cooperation. In this film, he might be mostly tough talk. The other criminals in the film are either left largely unexplained or guilty of only petty or consensual crimes. I find this kind of political correctness in films reprehensible, although I realize it's primarily a studio decision.
On the positive side, the villains here were cleverly conceived, and their nature makes them much more menacing physically. On the negative side, however, Richet lost the Night of the Living Dead (1968) zombie-like nature of the marauders, which saps suspense from the attacks. The logistics of the defense of the police station and details of their dilemma are not very clearly scripted or staged, either, which doesn't help. Another flaw is that some intruders seem to inexplicably hesitate. Another positive, though, is that Richet's film brings back a few small details, such as the capture of the criminal at the beginning of the film, and a substance addiction in one of the heroes leading to a character transformation, found in Rio Bravo (1959), the film that in conjunction with Night of the Living Dead, was the main inspiration for Carpenter's original film.
Also on the positive side, this Assault has a skilled (and much more well known) cast. Even though Richter occasionally directed them to be a bit too over-the-top, the performances hit many very interesting notes. And a few of the additions to the original film, such as a Mexican standoff and a couple later scenes outside the police station were excellent. The increased firepower here may also be to some viewer's liking.
A viewer less fond of the original, or even unfamiliar with the original, may like Assault better than I did. I may have even liked it better if the original were not so fresh in my memory (I just watched it again it recently--a review is forthcoming). There are enough redeeming aspects for action fans to make it worth at least a rental or a viewing on cable, but approach the film with lowered expectations.
An exciting, violent action film!
5/10 Now, before you criticize me, I have never seen the original John Carpenter version of this film. Being a huge fan, I really should see it, and after seeing this remake, I will definitely track down the original to see if it is as good as this film. I had a blast!4 years ago
New Years in Detroit, a cold winter's morning as Precinct 13 prepares to close it's doors and move to a new building. There are only three people in the building on New Year's Eve, and as a storm draws closer, a criminal being transported to a maximum security center is re-routed to the deserted precinct. Only, there are some other people that would like to get closer to the villain.
Very exciting story and excellent acting by both Ethan Hawke and Laurence Fishbourne take this action over the edge. Some people may find the film ultra violent, but violence on the big screen never bothered me, so I enjoyed it quite a lot! Definitely worth a look for action fans, and fans of the original who are curious. However, those that are disturbed by violent images, would like to steer clear of this film.
Generic but Enjoyable
6/10 On a snowy New Year's Eve, a police station where a bus full of convicts has been jailed comes under attack from corrupt policemen, forcing a police sergeant with a cloudy past (Ethan Hawke) to team with a ruthless mob boss (Lawrence Fishburne) to try to keep them at bay.4 years ago
The original was a pretty good film so I'm still confused about the need to remake it. Yes, it was a little outdated but the film still worked fine. I was expecting the remake to be really bad since the trailer looked lackluster and Ethan Hawke isn't that good of an actor. However, this update turned out to be a decent film. It doesn't approach the original in quality but at least it doesn't insult the original either. They do change some things from the original though that didn't really bother me. Actually, it's kind of better that they tried it in a different way instead of doing it exactly the same (paging Psycho) and there was more reason to remake it.
The performances were okay, nothing special. Ethan Hawke was okay as Roenick. He would sometimes go over the top and he was a little weak at some points. Laurence Fishburne was better than Ethan but still only average. Ja Rule actually gives a good performance for a rapper though he doesn't get a lot of screen time. John Leguizamo was okay, kind of dull. Maria Bello gave the best performance out of everyone and she is a pretty underrated actress. Gabriel Byrne was just meh while Drea de Matteo was clearly there for eye candy and nothing more.
Jean-Francois Richet does a decent job at directing and he manages to create some suspense. However, he does keep the film simple and most of the twists are obvious. The script is generic and weak with a lot of cliches and little in the way of originality. The action sequences are slick and enjoyable but they are also kind of sparse. The movie also becomes dull from time to time even though the film isn't really that long. There is also little character development so it's hard to feel sorry for some of these people. The remake is really just a semi-enjoyable, generic action film. It fails to surpass the original in most categories but it still stands as a decent film. In the end, Assault on Precinct 13 is a decent action film and it's worth checking out. Rating 6/10
Assault on Precinct 13
8/10 I did not think I was going to like this remake of the 1976 cult favorite. I was, however, pleasantly surprised. The movie was fun. The characters were likable. The action was well paced. The sets and backgrounds were excellent, giving the viewer a feeling of desolation and dread that the original movie had in abundance. I originally heard that Ethan Hawke's character was the same as his character in "Training Day", but I totally disagree. Oddly enough, both characters were named Jake. So, they were both young police officers named Jake who were going through a rough period, but Ethan Hawke played both differently. This is not a movie to bring your kids to; too much violence. This might be a good date movie, but not a first date movie. All in all, I give "Assault on Precinct 13" (2005) an A-. If you want to have fun, watch it. - JFLY4 years ago
A good cast and one terrifically exciting action sequence keep afloat an otherwise average film.
5/10 Rating: ** 1/2 out of ****4 years ago
A lot of people will likely hate this movie by virtue of the fact that it's a remake. Being open-minded, I'm not offended by the thought of a beloved cult classic getting a Hollywood remake; it is, after all, quite interesting to see how the big-budget treatment affects the same premise. In this case, the result is not too shabby at all, certainly better than the ads would indicate, even if this is a remake that doesn't stand on its own nearly as well as Zack Snyder's Dawn of the Dead.
Assault on Precinct 13 (referred to as AP13 from here on out) stars Ethan Hawke as cop Jake Roenick, a former undercover officer who's now strictly on desk duty after a horrible mishap that resulted in the deaths of two fellow officers. It's his last day (coincidentally also New Year's Eve) in Precinct 13, and he's simply overseeing the transfer along with another cop (Brian Dennehy) and a secretary (Drea de Matteo).
Due to the snowy conditions, a prison bus transferring dangerous cop-killer Marion Bishop (Laurence Fishburne) is forced to take refuge in Precinct 13. But it becomes clear soon enough that there are a large number of corrupt cops surrounding the precinct, determined to kill Bishop and every possible witness inside. Faced with no other options, Roenick frees and arms the prisoners, using whatever means necessary to battle against the far more numerous and better armed enemy.
John Carpenter's 1976 cult hit was a fairly effective thriller, maintaining an atmospheric claustrophobia that balanced nicely with the well-choreographed shootouts. Though there are many differences between these versions, both plot-wise and stylistically, this remake essentially opts for the same brand of edge-of-the-seat excitement, but as is par for this generation's offerings, the action sequences are pumped up with a lot more firepower and a lot less plausibility.
As silly as Carpenter's film may have seemed to the discriminating viewer, it was a smartly plotted thriller with only a few minor holes. This remake, on the other hand, is riddled with all sorts of logical inconsistencies. The most obvious one? In less than a day, the head of the corrupt team of cops (played by Gabriel Byrne) is somehow able to assemble his men on very short notice and arm them with top-notch weaponry that must have been hell to sign out from the armory (he even calls in a chopper at one point). And as the body count significantly rises, one has to wonder how he plans to cover up the massive blood shed (blaming it on Bishop's men doesn't quite explain how his own men were killed or what they were doing at the precinct).
The body count is almost bafflingly low considering the numbers mentioned (Byrne says he's got 33 men, hard to believe corruption could spread to every one of them); I could swear fewer characters were killed than were even involved in the entire film. Other problems include a scene where Byrne chooses to execute a survivor rather than use this person as a bargaining chip, and as the number of survivors within the station dwindles down, one character conveniently remembers an escape route just as the building's about to be invaded.
The climax, a disappointingly rote cat-and-mouse chase, is set in a forest apparently right by the station, but I could have sworn an overhead shot established the precinct in an entirely urban section of Detroit. Along with the sagging pace in the second half, predictability also hampers the suspense, it's too easy to figure out who's going to die and in what order. The identity of the traitor is also another easy guess, considering the very tiny list of suspects still around by that point.
For all these nagging flaws, the film is still worth mildly recommending for one lengthy, high-octane action setpiece. The first major invasion of the precinct is a thrilling sequence, every bit the equal of the similar siege in the original, though louder and faster-paced. The action even boasts a little bit of strategy and some mild thought. Other action scenes are competently handled, but lack the claustrophobic edge of the shootouts set within the precinct.
The cast is mostly first-rate, even Ethan Hawke, who usually does little more than coast by on his best Tom Cruise impersonation. Laurence Fishburne, channeling a darker version of Morpheus, does well with what little material he has to work with, and it's fun to see Brian Dennehy barking up a storm again. Of the two female leads, Maria Bello is the one with more "depth," but she's almost fatally annoying as the whiny psychologist. Drea de Matteo, on the other hand, is one of those rare women who somehow still looks sexy even when she's dressed as a hooker (or is she sexy because she's dressed that way?). Gabriel Byrne makes a solid impression despite the limited screen time, and Ja Rule and John Leguizamo are apparently only on hand to provide some truly lame comic relief and take equal turns participating in one very gruesome beating.
AP13 came very close to getting a two-star rating from me, but in this day and age when action films need sci-fi, fantasy or horror elements to succeed, there's no denying this film is better than the usual lot churned from Hollywood. This remake is an earnest attempt in crafting an edge-of-the-seat thriller and even if it only gets halfway there, that's still better than most pure action movies these days.