Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Assault on Precinct 13

ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 (Jean-François Richet, 2005)

John Carpenter’s 1976 film ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 has been remade with Ethan Hawke as the police sergeant in need of redemption. Hawke stars as Jake Roenick, an undercover cop whose team members were killed when their operation failed to go as planned. Choosing to stay out of the line of fire, Jake takes over a supervisory role at a Detroit precinct scheduled to close on New Year’s Day. The precinct building is mostly empty on New Year’s Eve until bad weather forces a prisoner transport bus to stop there until conditions improve. One of the prisoners is Marion Bishop, a high-profile gangster played by Laurence Fishburne. Shortly after Bishop’s arrival, unknown men surround the building and initiate an attack. To survive Jake and his coworkers arm the prisoners to fight back.

ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 is a western with a video game’s sensibility, like THE ALAMO infused with GRAND THEFT AUTO’S attitude. The evidence room includes a gamer’s selection of vintage weapons, including a working tommy gun. Rudely funny and gleefully violent, the film is a wound-up genre exercise that doesn’t dip even a toe into reality but is a good time if you can get past that. Supporting players Ja Rule and John Leguizamo chew the scenery like hungry dogs that have been tossed steaks. Hawke gets a rare chance to play action hero and works it for several laughs, particularly in the opening undercover scene. Fishburne brings along his Morpheus-like calmness to an underwritten but cold-as-ice gangster. Director Jean- François Richet adds some nice atmosphere and keeps ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 chugging along with factory line efficiency. Richet doesn’t take the film too seriously, which is the best way to enjoy this silly, amped-up action picture.

Grade: B-

(Review first aired on the January 18, 2005 NOW PLAYING)

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