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Assault on Precinct 13
2005 - R - 109 Mins.
Director: Jean-Francois Richet
Producer: Jeffrey Silver, Don Carmody
Written By: James DeMonaco
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Laurence Fishburne, Maria Bello, Drea de Matteo, Ja Rule, John Leguizamo, Brian Dennehy
Review by: Joe Rickey
Official Site:
The film ‘Assault on Precinct 13’, is a remake of the 1976 John Carpenter cult classic. The titular precinct is about to be closed down come New Year (as the film begins, it is December 31 and a blizzard rages outside). It is being looked after by a skeleton staff that includes Roenick (Ethan Hawke), an officer who became psychologically damaged after a particularly unfortunate incident in which he was the only member of his undercover team to survive. The staff plans to celebrate the New Year with a low key party as they pack up in preparation to move to their new Precinct 21. But their plans change when they receive an emergency call from a bus transporting criminals -- chief among them is a notorious gangster (Laurence Fishburne).

Roenick and crew reluctantly agree to house the criminals until the blizzard subsides. Everything is going smoothly until a bunch of cars is spotted outside. Suddenly, countless armed assailants begin to surround the precinct. The assailants are thought to be the henchmen of the aforementioned gangster. But expectations are upended when they discover that those surrounding the station are actually dirty cops bent on killing the gangster so that he isn’t able to testify against them for committing a number of nefarious deeds. The thing is, since everyone stuck in the precinct now knows what the gangster knows, those on the outside can’t afford to let anyone leave alive. Roenick decides to arm everyone, including the prisoners, and thousands of bullets go flying when it becomes an all out war for survival.

If you have been craving an unadulterated, violent balls-to-the-wall action thriller, Jean-Francois Richet’s vision of ‘Assault on Precinct 13’ is just the ticket. The film starts with a bang -- one of the most effective pre-credits sequences I’ve ever seen -- and sets the gritty tone of the film with washed-out cinematography complimented by stark, unapologetic violence, not unlike Oliver Stone or Quentin Tarantino. The film then spends about thirty minutes developing the characters and setting up the situation. This portion is relatively uneventful but still manages to be efficient, aided greatly by sharp dialogue and a memorable score.

The film’s performances also take center stage here as well. In the lead role, Ethan Hawke is quite effective, commanding one’s attention much as he did alongside Denzel Washington in ‘Training Day.’ As his foil come disinclined partner, Laurence Fishburne manages the difficult task of keeping one’s attention just by his presence on screen. He doesn’t even have to say anything and he is still impressive. His effectiveness is doubled when he does talk, a relative rarity in the film, but a realistic characteristic because he is supposed to be a brooding, intelligent, no nonsense guy who happens to be a career criminal. Supporting performances from the likes of Ja Rule, Gabriel Byrne and Maria Bello are also capable, understandably not reaching the heights of the more fleshed-out personas inhabited by Hawke and Fishburne.

Director Richet amps up the excitement once the siege begins, and the film becomes a barrage of nonstop action, intelligently choreographed and containing surprises that circumvent one’s expectations by toying with and altering events that are potential clichés in the wrong directorial hands.

Thoroughly entertaining and consistently well-made, ‘Assault on Precinct 13’ is certainly one of the best films of its kind in a long while and therefore easily recommended.
Movie Guru Rating
An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant.
  4.5 out of 5 stars

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