Assault On Precinct 13 (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner26/01/2005

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 109 mins

Impressively made, extremely enjoyable remake that does justice to the original – with strong performances from its entire cast and nail-biting suspense sequences, this is a cut above the average Hollywood thriller.

It seems that sequels, remakes and “updates” are all the rage in Hollywood at the moment with upcoming films such as The Flight of the Phoenix, The Magic Roundabout and Bewitched proving that nothing is safe, from 1950s adventure movies through fondly remembered kids’ TV shows to sitcoms about witches with endearingly twitchy noses.

However, Assault on Precinct 13 is that rare thing: a remake that actually does justice to the original and won’t upset its fans. Indeed, John Carpenter himself (director of the 1976 cult thriller) gave the remake his full blessing, and with good reason, as it’s a thoroughly enjoyable action / suspense flick. (And the publicity probably won’t hurt sales of the original’s Special Edition DVD either).

Police And Criminals Under Seige

Ethan Hawke plays Sergeant Jake Roenick, a police officer still wrestling with memories of a fatal undercover op the previous Spring. With his precinct due to close, Roenick finds himself on duty on New Year’s Eve, with only veteran cop “Old School” O’Shea (Brian Dennehy) and sexy secretary Iris (Drea DeMatto, from The Sopranos) for company.

However, when a storm strands a prison bus in their vicinity, Precinct 13 suddenly finds itself with four criminals to look after, including formidable crime lord Marion Bishop (Laurence Fishburne), motor-mouthed junkie Beck (John Leguizamo), hustler Smiley (Ja Rule) and gang member Anna (Aisha Hinds).

As the title implies, things go from bad to worse for Roenick when armed gunmen lay siege to the precinct and he’s forced to team up with Bishop in order to survive. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, Roenick also has to protect his sexy shrink (Maria Bello), who knows all about his leadership “issues”…

The performances are excellent – there’s obviously something about teaming Ethan Hawke with a respected black actor that really seems to work, because Hawke and Fishburne work even better together than Hawke and Washington in Training Day. Both actors are superb here and there’s strong support from the entire cast, with Bello, DeMatto, Leguizamo and Dennehy the stand-outs.

Confident Debut From French Director

Assault on Precinct 13 is the English language debut of French director Jean Francois Richet, which may account for why the film has a distinct non-Hollywood feel to it. The script is excellent: the characters are both well-drawn and interesting and there are several nice touches, such as Roenick and Beck bonding over drug prescriptions or the inventive use of the precinct’s antiquated stash of confiscated weaponry (Anna’s handling of a Tommy Gun is a particular highlight).

Richet confidently treats the majority of the film as one long suspense sequence, punctuating the tension every so often with short bursts of action that will keep you on the edge of your seat. The film is also refreshingly unpredictable – there’s an astonishing sequence in the middle where you suddenly realise that all bets are off as to who’s going to make it to the final reel.

In short, it seems churlish to complain about remakes of classic movies when the result is as thoroughly enjoyable as this, particularly as Carpenter’s original was itself a remake of Howard Hawks’ classic western Rio Bravo. As such, this could well be the most enjoyable mainstream thriller of the year. Highly recommended.

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Content updated: 19/10/2017 13:32

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