johnlink ranks ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 (2005)

This is the 2005 remake of the cult classic John Carpenter film of the same name from 1976 (which I have not seen). The story concerns a collection of cops and criminals holed up in a police station while being repeatedly attacked from the outside. I was in the mood for something intense, and I remembered this as being so. I do talk briefly about the ending, though it is not some kind of revolutionary surprise, so there are SPOILERS BELOW.


I watched ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 (2005) on 5.22.12. It was my second viewing of the film, and my first since its DVD release.

I’m not sure that anyone is banging the drum for Ethan Hawke as one of his generation’s best actors, but I will say that he consistently makes better the films he is in (except for the unfortunate HAMLET he did in 2000). Laurence Fishburne is a guy who can be superb, but will often coast through a movie on ‘cool’. These two together work very well on screen, even if you aren’t about to regard their pairing as excellent acting. They are certainly watchable and engaging, with Hawke playing the cop and Fishburne playing the cop-killer who is being targeted by the outside attack.

While this movie is fairly standard in terms of its beats and its violence, I will say that it is unexpectedly brutal in regards to its characters. You expect, in a film like this, the good guys and the bad guys will go down one-by-one as the leads end up the only survivors remaining. Who lives and who dies (and how) is certainly unique here, if only for one key death which I won’t spoil.

I enjoy this film. It has a visceral intensity. The danger is palpable, even if it doesn’t assault the intellect the same way it assaults our more survivalist instincts. Hawke is effective as the leader of this ragtag group protecting each other in a soon-to-close police station. Cut off from the outside by a New Year’s Eve storm and the technological capabilities of those laying siege, these people must band together in an attempt to make it to dawn.

This is a dark film, taking place almost entirely at night and utilizing (perhaps sometimes over-utilizing) blue color filters in the exteriors to add to the illusion of cold isolation. There is certainly some ambition in the approach to the film, even if it does not always translate to the execution.

The ending, with the traitorous villain being killed in isolation, is somewhat unsatisfactory. I think of THE NEGOTIATOR and how that film handled a villain who truly falls in the eyes of those who trusted him. In ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13, the climax had more of a ho-hum feel. Like they used any creativity they had early on and just ended it in your standard good-guy versus bad-guy showdown. And if the way Fishburne’s character is handled at the end is supposed to be surprising, then they were off base. What happens between he and Hawke is not anything other than what the audience wants and expects.

So while I certainly enjoy the playing out of this film, I don’t think it is anything special. Certainly worth seeing, I was less impressed by this viewing than I was six or seven years ago when I first saw it. Perhaps a movie to throw in once a decade, this is nothing more than an average film with an above-average entertainment value.



The negative bonus point is for the post-production work. The CGI is not good, and is completely unnecessary. There is a scene involving gun sights pointing into the window, and I assume the laser beams were added in post, which feel disconnected from the world of the film.

But the worst is the continuity. There are many people who enjoy picking apart a film to watch when someone’s drink gets more or less full. I’ve never been one of those people, because I’m not actively trying to lower my ability to enjoy a film. But there are many instances where cuts disappear and reappear. Snow levels grow and shrink. Blinds open and close (which is only noticeable because the film immediately makes a point to show us the lasers). But worst of all, a villain knows early on that eight people inside. Fine, maybe someone on the inside is working. But when he later captures someone, the only thing he asks is how many people are inside before killing that person. What?!  How did noone notice that he miraculously knows how many people are left, and then forgets and NEEDS to know. It’s absurd. Stupid. None of these things individually would produce a negative point, but they point to a laziness in post-production which negatively affects the experience.




~ by johnlink00 on May 23, 2012.

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