many, I can see how one could consider violence in film to be “cool.” The
James Bond, Kill Bill, and Matrix movies are all prime
examples of how guns and swords can make for fun times. However, whenever a
movie as gruesome and aimless in intention as Assault on Precinct 13
comes along thinking that its gratuitousness is “cool,” I find myself
somewhat offended. The subject matter of this film, itself, is perfectly
acceptable, in my book. But, its execution blurs the line between the
disturbed and the amusing. Assault on Precinct 13 cannot make up its
mind regarding what it would like to be. As a result, in addition to being
stylistically misguided, it comes across as extremely distasteful.
Assault on Precinct 13 is a remake of a
1976 John Carpenter film, which I have not seen. However, I am told that it
is a bit of a gritty mess of a movie, which does not place coolness anywhere
on its priority list. Both versions of the story share the same setting: the
soon-to-be-closed Precinct 13. In this new update, most of the plot takes
place on New Year’s Eve. Only four characters remain in the old precinct, as
they anxiously await the arrival of January 1st. They are: Jake
Roenick (Ethan Hawke), a police officer whose partners died in a drug bust
and has been afraid of returning to the field ever since; Alex Sabian (Maria
Bello), his psychologist, who is stuck at Precinct 13, as she cannot drive
in the snowstorm outside; Iris (Drea deMatteo), the secretary of the place;
and Jasper O'Shea (Brian Dennehy), a retiring officer who worked there
during his career.
The night first seems as though it will be a
celebratory one, but the arrival of four prisoners, who must stay at
Precinct 13 until the snowstorm dies down, introduces the story to havoc.
One of these prisoners is Bishop (Lawrence Fishburne), a gangster who is
willing to testify against Marcus Duvall (Gabriel Byrne), who helped him in
his crimes. Duvall realizes that he will go to prison for a very long time
if this happens, so he and a team of other men surround the precinct and
execute a plan to kill Bishop and anyone he informs of what is happening and
why it is.
The main problem I have with Assault on
Precinct 13’s execution is that all of its gunplay goes without any
strategy. Once the basic plot is developed, not much happens, story-wise.
Shooting, stabbing, and burning all take place. However, this is not likely
to interest anyone aside from the average teenage boy. Graphic tales of
blood and guts only work under two circumstances. (1) When they depict
harshly real stories. (2) When they are parts of riveting fiction.
Assault on Precinct 13’s violence fits neither of these molds. I, for
one, was completely puzzled by what director Jean Francois-Richet expected
me to think of his picture. I wasn’t enthralled by its grisly images and
only responded to them by letting out the occasional “OWW!” I didn’t care
for any of the characters, and was completely unaffected when some of them
All of the performances in Assault on Precinct
13 are solid, but nothing to rave about. Ethan Hawke’s typical ADD-like
shtick actually works here, seeing as his character is usually in a state of
desperation. Not to mention, it suits him even better in the opening scene,
in which he’s posing undercover as a strung-out drug-dealer. Lawrence
Fishburne keeps the same intimidating stare and tone of voice throughout the
entire movie, but never comes across as a one-trick-pony. The only actor who
isn’t any good in the movie is John Leguizimo, who totally misses the mark
in playing the in-your-face Beck, one of the unlucky prisoners who must stay
at Precinct 13 for the brutal night.
I wish I could simply dismiss Assault on
Precinct 13 by calling it a mindless action flick that manages to be
occasionally interesting, but I cannot. Am I really supposed to think of a
movie with such mean-spirited bloodshed as an enjoyable experience? It might
not be boring, but it doesn’t even exist in the realm of my recommendation.
Time is too precious to be wasted on senseless movies. Assault on
Precinct 13 is a senseless movie.
-Danny, Bucket Reviews
(Posted in 12.28.2004-2.5.2005 Update)
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