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Ethan Hawke
Laurence Fishburne
Gabriel Byrne
Brian Dennehy
Maria Bello
John Leguizamo.
Jean-Francois Richet.
James DeMonaco.
Running Time
109 minutes

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Assault on Precinct 13

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On a snowstormy New Year’s Eve, Sergeant Roenick (Hawke) is left in charge of a nearly defunct police station in downtown Detroit. After taking an unwanted delivery of crooks – including ganglord Bishop (Fishburn) – who need cells for the night, Roenick’s precinct is suddenly attacked by a squad of well-armed assailants.

Between the scruffily satirical sci-fi spoof Dark Star and the lean machine of Halloween, John Carpenter made Assault On Precinct 13, a thriller which transplanted elements of the Wild West (especially Rio Bravo) into gang-overrun Los Angeles. A cult hit in Europe, the first Assault was barely released in the US and never quite gained the following of Carpenter’s other early hits. So it seems a less obvious candidate for a modern make-over than other genre items from the ’70s like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Dawn Of The Dead. It’s such a patchwork of bits and pieces from other movies that it already seems like a radical remake – therefore, a new version ought to need a pressing reason to exist.

Oddly, this suspenseful and entertaining redo bypasses those expectations. Like the new Dawn and Texas, it tweaks and rethinks rather than updates. If it misses the shock and awe of the 1976 Assault (no gutshot little girl here, and, sadly, no sparse, nervewracking Carpenter score), the remake is still a solid cop-and-crook exercise, with plentiful gunplay and jagged character acting.

An added 20 minutes means more plot and a slightly bigger cast of besieged characters. In place of zombie-like gangbangers, the besiegers are a well-motivated and equipped team, and the supercool criminal who happens to be in the near-derelict cop shop overnight is linked to the attack rather than an ‘innocent’ bystander. It’s good stuff, but also more conventional, and some of Carpenter’s Hawksian licks have been imitated so many times that doing them again here gets Naked Gun-ish laughs.

Hawke, with tattoos and twitches, holds down the fort, and Fishburne channels Chow Yun Fat’s impeturbability (Marion Bishop is a long way from Jimmy Jump of King Of New York). But the most fun comes from unpredictable support players like John Leguizamo as a motormouth junkie who always has something unhelpful to say, Maria Bello as a therapist who cracks, Brian Dennehy as the near-retirement veteran (uh-oh) and, especially, Drea DeMatteo as a gun-toting secretary in fishnets who’s resolved to give up both smoking and bad boys for the New Year. Somebody give her a whole movie, please.

No prizes for originality, but how original does a cop-action-siege thriller have to be? A smart script, edgy acting and a gradual accumulation of suspense set-pieces makes for a decent popcorn high.

Reviewed by Kim Newman

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Average user rating for Assault on Precinct 13
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RE: Assault on Precinct 13

The original is one of those early Carpenter films that gets by on mood and atmosphere more than anything else, so the remake is quite hard to compare really. It's not bad though, decent cast and some nice moments here and there, but it all becomes very predictable eventually. Watchable. 3/5 ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by paulyboy at 16:38, 11 October 2012 | Report This Post

RE: Very Average (Part 2)

Assault on Precinct 13 (2005) The first Carpenter remake released in 05, the year of the Carpenter remakes. Amazingly this isn't a shot for shot remake but actually a reasonable attempt at something slightly different. Must give kudos to the script writer/s for trying a new angle with the plot to add a touch of originality. Its pretty much the same type of film as before accept this time the cops and crooks holed up within Precinct 13 are against crooked cops who want one of the convi... More

Posted by Phubbs at 16:11, 11 October 2012 | Report This Post

Very Average (Part 2)

...activities, but never mind. Ethan Hawk also shows no remorse or sadness at the end for all the poor people that died (including the lovely woman who was helping him with his therapy -- although the skank survives!! Yay), and the film ends without even properly resolving the “story”. (i.e. why is Jake so casual and "cool" at the end - mostly everyone just died in his protection. And if Bad-Morpheus isn't around to give the statement ratting out all the bad cops, wouldn't Jake be under a... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by petethejakey at 15:56, 24 April 2012 | Report This Post

Very Average

This Review Contains Spoilers. Assault On Precinct 13 starts out good in a mostly unrelated sequence, despite a female cop character showing a complete lack of common sense in the combat field - namely standing out in the open and not taking cover when you know there's a maniac with a gun about. Things quickly move on to a snowy, Winter setting where a bunch of crooked cops are trying to kill 'Bad-Morpheus' who's inside Precinct 13 (obviously). Lawrence Fishburne doesn’t deviate much... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by petethejakey at 15:52, 24 April 2012 | Report This Post

I've never seen the original version of this film so I can't really judge it in comparison to that. I know that some reviews of this film will inevitably compare it with the original but because I haven't seen it I take this remake as it is. I really enjoyed this film. From the opening scene, right to the last. Dialogue may not be top notch but let's face it, this film is not about dialogue. The action speaks for itself. Lots of guns and lots of bullets flying left right and centre but... More

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Posted by PureAinmhi at 17:39, 29 January 2009 | Report This Post

very good remake ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by casino at 20:01, 25 September 2006 | Report This Post

Assault on Precinct 13

Cliched and unoriginal. How original does it have to be? More original than this. Characters were by the book with not a surprise anywhere to be seen. Great cast but unimaginitive direction. Miss. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by qualidad at 21:31, 27 July 2006 | Report This Post

i found it really tense, and a good way to spend an evening! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Rhubarb at 11:09, 15 April 2006 | Report This Post

pretty damn good

its not gonna be a classic but well worth a watch. intelligent script and nerve wracking set pieces make this a pretty damn good watch. ... More

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Posted by darkninja7 at 20:07, 25 February 2006 | Report This Post

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