The remake, the reinterpretation, the re-image, the rehash, all invite the same thing; comparison and a quick glance around the web will reveal plenty of comparison reviews for this, Assault on Precinct 13. So, to break from the norm I am going to avoid any reference to the 1975 Carpenter film, except to say any similarity between this and the original is purely coincidental.
Jake Roenick (Ethan Hawke) used to be a top undercover cop, but ever since a bust went bad and he lost his partners he has not been the same. Suffering from guilt about the decisions he made and using the injury he suffered at the same time as excuse, he spends his time as a deck sergeant, drinking and addicted to pain killers, in the run down Precinct 13, about to be closed on New Years Day. During a particularly heavy snow storm, the recently captured criminal Bishop (Laurence Fishburne) who is being transferred is forced to the practically deserted precinct 13 until the storm blows over. Once there the building is laid siege by assailants hell bent on killing Bishop and anyone he has come in contact with. In a desperate attempt to stay alive, Roenick is forced to arm Bishop and the criminals travelling with him, as to survive the night all must put away their differences and fight it out together. Thus ends the plot of the film and the action contained therein.
Taking the very familiar 'siege' device, the screenwriters are quick to point out that this is more than just an action movie, containing as it does character motivations. However, such character defining moments are rather thin on the ground and not explored that well, landing this is film as action, pure and simple. Hawke's character Roenick is the most explored, the film opens with the failed drug bust that causes his downfall; all this is well handled and the dynamic between him and his psychiatrist do make for some nice moments, but when it comes to explaining his refusal to give up the prisoners, we are told nothing. A little thought into why Roenick is willing to risk, not only, his own, but everyone in the building's life to safe guard the prisoners is completely ignored. Likewise, Bishop, the criminal know for his 'elaborate execution styles' remains an enigma. Little to nothing is know about him, so we, the audience, neither care if he lives or dies, he is given no redeeming features, though likewise he is given precious few damning qualities either. Gabriel Byrne as Marcus Duvall, the main villain of the film is given little to do, it is such a shame for a quality actor as him to be laden with an almost bit part. Considering he is supposed to be loathed as the villain, he is only given one, admittedly good, scene to show how evil he is! One thing the film did succeed in was action, the attempts to storm the building are expertly achieved and a joy to watch. There are also one or two squirming moments when characters you have known for a while don't make it as you think they might, hats off to this. Things that got on my nerves; snow flakes don't bounce, and the lack of visible breath in what must be a very cold night! The pacing is kept brisk, as is the norm nowadays and the familiarity with the plot make for an easy watching experience. After the initial fend off by the besieged, when all seems to be going well, the film takes an odd turn and characters that have become known to us start to end up dead, this does have the effect of keeping the audience of guard, thinking anyone could die, and most do. So when all is said and done Assault on Precinct 13 has all the ingredients of a rather predictable action film, high on pace and explosions, low on thought, but scratch beneath this and you will find a little bit more, flawed maybe but mindless none the less; just don't compare to Carpenter's effort for only disappointment lies therein.
Our Review Ethos