ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13
Review by Gordon Justesen
Ethan Hawke, Laurence Fishburne, John Leguizamo, Maria Bello, Ja Rule, Drea de
Matteo, Brian Dennehy, Gabriel Byrne
Director: Jean-Francois Richet
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Features: See Review
Length: 109 Minutes
Release Date: May 10, 2005
you use this situation to try and escape, it’s about me and you,
cause when this is over,
you’re going back to jail.”
sergeant. This ain’t about me and you…NOT YET.”
on Precinct 13 is the film
that introduced the world to John Carpenter. Many tend to think that Halloween
in '78 was what put him on the map, but truth be told, this brutal action
thriller made two years prior was his first true cinematic gem. However, though
the film has become at least one of my favorite cult classics of all time, it
has still gone unnoticed even to those who have seen most of Carpenter’s work.
So in an odd way, a
remake was, in my opinion, not too bad of an idea. In my mind, if a remake can
motivate people to discover the original, then there’s no problem with
remaking it. But as it turns out, the 2005 remake of Assault
on Precinct 13 is an explosive and very confidently made action film, and
one of the best to come around in some time.
attempt to clone the original film in any way. All that remains is the plot
formula, where a band of unlikely allies fight off an enemy that has cornered
them in an abandoned police precinct. What’s important to note is that
Carpenter’s film was an urban updating of the classic western Rio Bravo.
And talk about
hardcore action. Assault on Precinct 13
represents the kind of movie that I started to think was fading away. Not since Bad
Boys II has a single film gleefully displayed sequence after sequence of
outrageous action sequences in pure R-rated glory. In the age of all too
frequent PG-13-friendly action, it’s great to see an action thriller stick to
its guns, no pun intended.
In addition, the
movie does deliver in terms of character. Switching the setting from sunny L.A.
to snowy Detroit, the story centers on Jake Roenick (Ethan Hawke), a former narc
whose guilt over the killing of his two partners during his last undercover
assignment have led to a desk job on the graveyard shift at Precinct 13. Jake
has spent the last 8 months popping pills and drinking heavily, sometimes on the
job. His shrink, Alex (Maria Bello), feels that Jake, who doesn’t open up
during their sessions, accepted the desk job as a means of hiding from the
On the other side
of town, a major crime figure is arrested following a shoot out at a church. He
is Marion Bishop (Laurence Fishburne), a city crime lord whose attracted the
attention of several cops, particularly celebrated Special Forces cop Marcus
Duvall (Gabriel Byrne). Bishop is soon placed on a transport bus with other
assorted criminals to be placed at the city jail.
happens to be Precinct 13’s last night of business, in addition to being New
Year’s Eve. Jake and his office cohorts, including secretary Iris (Drea de
Matteo) and veteran cop Jasper O’Shea (Brian Dennehy) prepare to throw a big
bash before shutting down the precinct’s doors and relocating to a new
district A furious snow storm plans the first of many surprises in store for the
The very transport
bus carrying Bishop is forced by the storm to make a temporary stop at Precinct
13 until it clears. Though it’s the last night of operating, Jake is forced to
harbor the prisoners in the building’s cells. As the New Year dawns, Jake and
company soon discover that a group of heavily armed men have surrounded the
It soon turns out
that the men in question are a unit of cops lead by corrupt cop Duvall. Bishop
informs Jake that he was once in business with Duvall’s unit, and that his
arrest would lead them to suspect that he’d spill the beans on their crooked
operation. Duvall’s intentions are to take everyone in the building out,
leaving no witnesses behind.
From this point on,
Assault on Precinct 13 doesn’t let
up for a single second. The action is as fast and furious as one could ask for.
Just when you think it’s on pause for a time out, the action kicks in again.
This is a riveting pattern followed right to the end of the movie.
element in the movie is the tension developing between Jake and Bishop. Jake
clearly needs the help of him and the rest of the imprisoned criminals, to
assist in the fight against the men outside. At the same time, it is unclear as
to whether Bishop is doing this to redeem himself, or to engage in the fight to
save his own neck.
Jean-Francois Richet has made quite an effective and assaulting action piece. I
am now convinced more than ever that French filmmakers understand the action
genre better than just about anyone. In addition to Luc Besson, who directed The
Professional, Richet has crafted a magnificently executed piece. Along with
fellow newcomer Florent Siri, director of the Bruce Willis thriller Hostage,
Richet shows immense promise as a terrific action filmmaker.
Without question, Assault
on Precinct 13 accomplishes the very thing it was designed to do, which is
deliver action and tension on the highest level possible. It is a well made,
very well acted and written action movie, which is a labeling one doesn’t here
This is quite a
remarkable looking disc from Universal. Director Jean-Francois Richet
illustrates a specific vision for this nighttime thriller, and the result is the
kind of video performance that is somewhat unexpected. The movie is set mostly
at night, which means a frequent amount of darkly lit scenes. There is
absolutely no flaw in the disc’s performance, as the provided image is
superbly crisp and clear, delivering outstanding all around detail.
Prior to watching
this disc, I had slightly rearranged my speaker setup. I’m not sure if this
was a factor, but what I can tell you is that 5.1 mix, provided both in Dolby
Digital and DTS, caused me to lower my volume several times because the sound
quality was so incredible and furious. Whatever the case, this is one
brilliantly assaulting sound performance, with everything from dialogue to music
score to that of consistent gun fire taking hold of the sound system and doing
nothing short of rocking it to the floor. An amazing job!
Very much a good
locked n’ loaded barrel of extras provided by Universal. Included is a
commentary track with director Jean Francois-Richet, writer James DeMonaco and
producer Jeffery Silver, deleted scenes with optional commentary, four vignette
featurettes, “Armed and Dangerous”, “Behind Precinct Walls”, “Plan of
Attack”, and “The Assault Team”, each of which covers specific areas of
production. Also featured is a making of featurette titled “Caught in the