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Overall Rating
2.76

Awesome: 2.33%
Worth A Look: 13.95%
Average54.65%
Pretty Bad: 15.12%
Total Crap: 13.95%

8 reviews, 38 user ratings


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Assault on Precinct 13 (2005)
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by Peter Sobczynski

"More like 'Training Day 2'-not a compliment"
3 stars

John Carpenter’s 1976 feature-film debut (following the expansion to feature length of his student film “Dark Star) “Assault on Precinct 13" was a film that took the basic idea of an old classic, in this case Howard Hawks’s legendary 1959 western “Rio Bravo”, and updated it into a lean and scarily effective action thriller that still packs a punch to this day for anyone encountering it for the first time. Anyone going into the new remake of “Assault” hoping that history has somehow repeated itself will find themselves rather disappointed by the by-the-numbers programmer that Carpenter’s minor masterpiece has inspired. Actually, part of the problem is that aside from the title, basic plot conceit and a couple of specific scenes, the makers of this new version don’t really seem to have any interest in the original and have chosen instead to turn it into another would-be thriller with corrupt cops, sly thugs and people trading droll quips while shooting people point-blank in the head

The first film, you might recall, dealt with a street gang that vowed revenge for a police massacre of some of their members by going off on a violent rampage. While the gang leader is busy assaulting an ice-cream vendor, an innocent girl (Kim Richards, the start of any number of Disney films at the time) appears and the thug guns her down without a moment’s hesitation (in a still-shocking bit that could never be done in a major film today). Her grief-struck father pursues the gang members, kills the leader and takes refuge in a largely isolated police station that is being closed down that very night. The gang members, now with reinforcements, arrive and lay siege on the station while the few people inside, cops and criminals, band together to keep them at bay and survive the night. It is a simple, precise premise that works primarily because it is so basic and stripped-down without any contrived conflicts or deep psychological traumas to overcome. Instead, in classic Hawksian fashion, they are more concerned with whether each other is “good” enough (i.e. cool and competent) in order to help out against the outside onslaught.

Within the first few minutes of this remake, it becomes evident that the screenplay is going to be loaded down with all sorts of unnecessary details created in a misguided effort to give viewers someone to supposedly care about. We learn that Sgt. Jake Roenick (Ethan Hawke) is still haunted by an undercover gig that went badly and has been running the isolated precinct in order to avoid being in a position where people’s lives are in his hands. We learn that sexy secretary Iris (Drea de Matteo) is a saucy lass with a penchant for bad boys. We learn that Jasper O’Shea (Brian Dennehy), the crusty veteran cop, is planning on retiring from police work (and the minute he makes that announcement, viewers can pretty much guarantee that the ending of the film will probably not involve him sipping boat drinks). Finally, we learn that well-known crime lord Marion Bishop (Laurence Fishburne) has just been arrested for killing a cop that very day and since the film is set on New Year’s Eve, he will have to wait in jail until after the holiday to attempt to make bail.

While transporting Bishop and three other criminals–a colorful junkie (John Leguizamo), a colorful counterfeiter (Ja Rule) and a colorful sassy-black-woman-who-says-she’s-never-committed-a-crime-but-sure-knows-how-to-handle-a-gun-an-hotwire-a-car (Aisha Hinds)–the bus encounters a snowstorm and is diverted to the nearly-abandoned Precinct 13 to wait it out until morning. Before long, a couple of masked gunmen storm the cells and attempt to take Bishop; they are repelled but many more begin to surround the station and cut off any means of communication or escape. Naturally, everyone believes that they are Bishop’s men attempting to free him until Bishop offers another explanation; he was dealing with dirty cops, led by the high-ranking Marcus Duvall (Gabriel Byrne) and they will all go to prison as well if he lives to testify in court. Therefore, if they want to survive, the honest cops and criminal inside the precinct will have to band together to withstand the increasingly brutal siege and hang on until help can finally arrive.

As an idea for an update on the basic premise, this is not necessarily a bad idea and I can even seen how Carpenter himself, who has always relished tweaking authority figures in his own films, might have been attracted to it. The problem with James DeMonaco’s screenplay is that, having set up such a potentially provocative premise, it proceeds to simply run it through the grinder until it turns into just another soulless action film. We get all sorts of manufactured conflicts between the cops and criminals but no sense of genuine tension or teamwork. Instead of the intricately planned bursts of brief, terrible violence that made the first film so distinct, the action scenes are the kind of typically overproduced nonsense where the filmmakers hope that the sheer noisiness of the firepower will distract viewers from the fact that nothing new or original is being presented to them.

Most disappointingly, nothing is done to exploit the fact that it is the police that our heroes are forced to gun down; instead of regret on the part of the cops or creepy giddiness on the part of the thugs, the bad guys are merely treated as anonymous video-game monsters who are dispatched in unlikely ways (including one death via icicle) that are usually topped off with some kind of quip. (Even at the end, as dozens of people lie dead around them, two survivors happily traipse off talking about their New Year’s resolutions.)

For those looking for nothing more than an unsurprising action film filled with bullets and bodies and little else, “Assault on Precinct 13" is tolerable enough; the actors are okay (even though all are basically playing variations on roles they have done before in more memorable efforts) and it moves along quickly enough. If it had a different title (such as “Training Day 2", which is actually a more apt description), I might have found myself a little more willing to overcome the flaws. However, if someone is going to do a remake of a classic, they have a responsibility to at least honor, if not improve upon, the original–the recent “Dawn of the Dead” was a good example of such a film. Unfortunately, “Assault on Precinct 13" never demonstrates any interest in its own legacy and that is why it finally comes up short in the end

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=11452&reviewer=389
originally posted: 01/19/05 15:49:10
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User Comments

12/29/13 Monday Morning Lots of totally needless violence. Loved it! 4 stars
11/16/11 Golden J. Williams Jr. Good action, original was way better! 3 stars
9/23/10 PAUL SHORTT NEEDLESS REMAKE 2 stars
1/06/10 art THIS REMAKE BURIES THAT TERRIBLE 1976 VERISON! 4 stars
7/08/09 *Holy_J@lapeno* This movie makes you want more and more and more. Awesome plot and awesome action scenes 4 stars
8/29/08 Shaun Wallner Interesting storyline. 4 stars
4/25/08 art THIS REMAKE IS FIVE TIMES BETTER THE 1976 ORIGINAL MUCH MORE REALISTI B 4 stars
11/29/07 mb That was OK> 4 stars
10/21/07 fools♫gold very muchly watchable 3 stars
1/27/07 William Goss Surprisingly solid actioner and decent remake, even when logic slips up. 4 stars
11/05/06 Phil M. Aficionado Good cast but very formulaic; if violence is your thing.... 3 stars
10/01/06 Charles Tatum By the numbers action flick, I've seen worse 4 stars
3/09/06 Piz Lot's of action and decent twists. Unspecatular but watchable. 3 stars
2/03/06 Stefan Halka As far as remakes go, it was decent. Nothing special. 3 stars
1/18/06 MrsVoorheesBabyBoy Even worse than the original 2 stars
7/21/05 TheViper Only if there is nothing to do should you watch this borefest. 1 stars
7/19/05 Indrid Cold Well done but completely unremarkable in every way. 3 stars
7/07/05 J This remake assault is succesfull. 5 stars
6/18/05 aldo Enjoyable film...not much story ..but good action 4 stars
6/12/05 Brian Mitchell A combination of the idiot plot with gratuitous violence and needless profanity. 1 stars
6/08/05 John everything a remake should not be - painting by the numbers - awful 1 stars
6/04/05 ELI Christ, it wasn't THAT BAD. enjoyable? Yup! Genius? Fuck no! 4 stars
6/01/05 Monday Morning The psychiatrist needed bigger tits. Not bad entertainment, though. 4 stars
5/15/05 y2mckay Fishburne looks bored, Leguizamo annoys, Drea and Maria look hot, director LOVES head shots 3 stars
5/04/05 What a waste Hideous. A 5 star film "remade" into a turd. 1 stars
4/05/05 Eugene Mortensen go see the original not this one 2 stars
3/26/05 Denise ok 3 stars
3/22/05 The Sorrow More like "Assualt on a cult-classic"... Yet again Hollywood has fucked up!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 2 stars
1/30/05 bongeezer Not bad enough to be campy.. It's just bad 1 stars
1/30/05 Casey Tells okay 3 stars
1/30/05 Fred Pellerito Rent the original instead 2 stars
1/28/05 MorallySound I hate remakes, but this one has some balls. A completely different take on an old story. 5 stars
1/27/05 nick2k i havent seen the original, but i thought this was pretty decent. hardcore violence. =) 3 stars
1/27/05 KingNeutron gritty and somewhat realistic. 3 stars
1/26/05 Steve Michaud No match for the original, of course, but still entertaining in its own right 4 stars
1/24/05 ajay boring. the dialog was written for a 2-year-old. I was close to walking out. 2 stars
1/24/05 impartial judgement blows 1 stars
1/20/05 BlindPenguinChef Another unnessecary remake of a classic movie..you're better off gouging your eyes out 2 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  19-Jan-2005 (R)
  DVD: 10-May-2005

UK
  N/A

Australia
  31-Mar-2005




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