Written by James DeMonaco
Directed by Jean-François Richet
Running Time: 1:45
strong violence and language throughout,
and for some drug content.
Assault on Precinct 13 was a very graphic yet exciting movie that never let up.
Jake Roenick's two partners were killed in a drug bust gone wrong. Eight months later he's sitting behind a desk at Precinct 13 in Detroit, not willing to go back out in the field. It's New Year's Eve and it's the last night this precinct will be open. Across town, the biggest gangster in Detroit, Marion Bishop, has just been arrested for killing a cop. He's supposed to be transferred to another facility, but the weather conditions are terrible, so Bishop, along with three other prisoners, are dropped off at Precinct 13. But almost immediately, someone starts to attack the precinct. At first everyone thinks its Bishop's crew, trying to break him out. But after Roenick kills one of them, they find out that it's not the bad guys that are after Bishop, it's the guys that are supposed to be good. Turns out Bishop has been in league with a lot of dirty cops, and those cops are trying to kill Bishop so he can't testify against them. Roenick and his crew have to open up the cells and let the prisoners help to defend themselves, or they'll all be killed.
I never saw the John Carpenter original, so I can't say if Assault on Precinct 13 is better or worse than its predecessor. I enjoyed this version however, because from start to finish it was non-stop action. And while it was violent, it wasn't any more violent than a host of other movies. What was different was that the director seems to have a fascination with close-ups of death. I can't remember another movie where I saw so many post-death close-ups of a bullet in someone's head. While I didn't think the amount of close encounters with dead heads were needed, I did appreciate the fact that everyone in the movie was fair game and you really didn't know who was going to live and who was going to die. Characters you normally would imagine would live in these types of films generally ended up with, yes, a bullet in their head.
Sure there were some plot holes. Like, just how many corrupt cops were there? What was the explanation going to be when it was all over? That Bishop's crew just came and slaughtered everyone? And without giving too much away, the person who ends up not being who they say they are, was given away much too easily so that turn of events wasn't too much of a surprise. And they did show a nice overview of the city and how the precinct related to the city and I can't believe no one would notice a shoot-out going on and not call someone about it. Oh, and the character of the shrink coming back after leaving earlier in the evening? Just based on who the actress was you knew she was coming back sooner or later.
There is something very cool about Laurence Fishburne, especially when you see him in an overcoat with the collar up. There was one specific shot just as the police were surrounding him where the camera flew across his body from left to right as his head turned, and for a brief second, you expected him to go all Matrix on everyone. His managed to take a character we're supposed to hate, and turn him into a character we were rooting for, but at the same time, hold his edge. Ethan Hawke was solid as the team leader, while Maria Bello and Drea de Matteo were good as the two females in the group. Gabriel Byrne as the leader of the corrupt group of cops was underutilized considering he can play menacing as well as anyone. Brian Dennehy's retiring cop was horribly written and almost seemed an after thought. The other group of prisoners were OK. Ja Rule didn't do very much and John Leguizamo was his usual irritating self.
It was the action of the movie that kept me interested. It started with the drug bust gone wrong flashback that has a nice yellow tint to it to make it feel grittier. Then there was a short introduction to the rest of the characters in the precinct before we went and met the bad guys. And once they arrive in jail, all hell breaks loose and never lets up. Bombs explode, buses blow up, tons of people get shot (generally in the head, but sometimes over the rest of their body.) People smash into trees, get set on fire. It really is very brutal. And I kept wondering if I should be happy every time one of the corrupt cops got blown away. Is it weird to be rooting for a deranged druggie to take a machine gun to a cop? I simply shook my head and realized I was watching a movie. And there were some funny moments as well, mostly coming from the dry delivery of Fishburne's character. A nice light joke in the middle of the violence makes the joke seem even funnier.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, I enjoyed Assault on Precinct 13. Not the best movie ever, but if you're looking for a solid action film with a lot of violence, this is the one for you. I'd probably be willing to watch it on DVD some day with a friend who hasn't seen it before.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince