Assault on Precinct 13
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Jean-François Richet
scr James DeMonaco
with Ethan Hawke, Laurence Fishburne, Drea de Matteo, Gabriel Byrne, Maria Bello, Brian Dennehy, John Leguizamo, Jeffrey 'Ja Rule' Atkins, Aisha Hinds, Matt Craven, Kim Coates, Dorian Harewood
release US 19.Jan.05,
UK 28.Jan.05
05/US Focus 1h49

Eyes left: De Matteo and Hawke

hawke fishburne bello

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Assault on Precinct 13 This is a 21st century-style remake of John Carpenter's 1976 action movie (which was a loose Rio Bravo remake)--nicely focussing on characters instead of the machinations of the plot. The result is a fairly edgy thriller that's not too demanding, but thoroughly entertaining.

On a snowy New Year's Eve in Detroit, Sergeant Jake Roenick (Hawke) is on duty with his saucy secretary (de Matteo) and an old-timer (Dennehy) for one last night at the soon-to-close Precinct 13. Then the storm strands Jake's court-ordered shrink (Bello) with them, as well as four dangerous prisoners--a notorious mob boss (Fishburne) and three low-lifes (Leguizamo, Atkins and Hinds). When the station is besieged by commandos, the cops and the criminals need to work together if there's any hope of getting out alive.

French director Richet uses handheld camera work and bold editing to keep the tension high right from the start, filling in the characters' back stories through dialog and scenes that provide insight into their personalities. As a result, when the plot starts churning through the requisite twists and turns, we are able to ride along with this odd group of people, actually caring what happens to them. To a degree.

Performances are strong from the actors who get something to do on screen, namely Hawke, Fishburne and de Matteo. The others provide bits of colour around the edges, while Byrne gets the thankless role as the shady cop who just wants to see Fishburne's slick, calm-in-the-storm baddie disappear forever. All of the actors clearly love the naturalistic dialog and the constant banter between characters. And this spark of individuality helps us forgive the extremely doubtful plot.

Because when you stop to think about it, there's nothing terribly plausible about this relentless storyline, which hinges on a series of conveniences and contrivances. But neither Richet's direction nor DeMonaco's script pauses long enough for us to dwell on the laughable plot holes, and the out-of-control situation develops into something engaging and very tense. And there's also a nice play on the 'honour among thieves' theme as we discover just a bit of dishonour among the cops.

cert 15 themes, violence, language, drugs 17.Jan.05

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Assault on Precinct 13 Donna Carter, Wisconsin: "At first, I was not very impressed. I couldn't believe that the actors in this movie would be in it if it was as bad as it appeared that it was going to be, so I stayed to give them a chance to make it better, and they did. The plot was rather implausible, but if you went with it anyway, it was suspenseful. There were a few gaffes that were rather noticeable and I think it was a bit over-the-top melodramatic a few times. The director apparently really liked bullet-in-the-head-bleeding-on-snow shots as he used them on several different characters. While I don't think it would be as effective to watch on the small screen, in some ways it did seem more like a 2-hour TV show than a movie. Let's just say I would have rather spent a matinee price on it than the full-price ticket I bought." (23.Jan.05)
© 2005 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall