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Assault on Precinct 13

Lock and Load

A burned out, baggage laden police captain finds himself marooned at the soon to be closed Precinct 13 on New Year's Eve. What starts out as a silent night for Capt. Jake Roenick erupts into a violent siege in which Roenick, his skeleton crew, and a handful of Detroit's most dangerous criminals must ward off a ceaseless onslaught of attackers.

While technically a 'remake' of John Carpenter's original Assault on Precinct 13, director Jean Francois Richet characterizes his film as a 're-envisioning' of Carpenter's original film. As is the case with Carpenter's original (and virtually all of Carpenter's films), the primary cast is comprised of misfits, criminals, burnouts, and otherwise marginalized individuals.

Accompanying the haggard police captain Jake Roenick (Ethan Hawke) for New Year's festivities is the crusty, soon to be retired Jasper O'Shea (well played by Brian Dennehy), Iris Ferry (Drea DeMatteo), a horny secretary with a thing for criminals, and a bevy of eligible candidates, the most notable of which is ruthless gang lord Marion Bishop (Laurence Fishburne).

Director Richet assembles a solid cast for this fairly generic action outing. Ultimately, it's the performances of the principals in Assault on Precinct 13 that enable the film to rise above mediocrity. Laurence Fishburne's Marion Bishop brings a quietly menacing presence that inspires awe in his fellow criminals and strikes fear in those who oppose him (with the obvious exception of Iris, who is aroused by Marion).

Equally rousing is Ethan Hawke's second outing as a cop (his first was inTraining Day). Hawke's pill popping, Jack Daniels swilling Roenick is a shadow of the former undercover cop he used to be. Hiding behind his chemical dependencies, desk and psychic wounds, he is the personification of the decrepit and decaying edifice that is Precinct 13.

Complimenting these solid performances is a story that is well paced and engaging. Richet's Assault on Precinct 13 keeps the same basic premise as the original, but introduces some new narrative elements and some complexity and depth to the main characters that was largely absent in John Carpenter's original.

Richet also orchestrates some jolting action sequences. The siege Roenick and his cohorts have to stave off is truly terrifying.Assault on Precinct 13 includes numerous shots that vividly convey the gravity of the situation. One of the more brilliantly conceived shots occurs towards the beginning of the siege in which all that Roenick and crew can see are dozens of red lasers scanning the walls, ceilings, and floor anxious for a human target.

Where the movie stumbles somewhat is in the unfolding of the narrative. There are no real surprises. Director Jean Francois Richet puts all his cards on the table in short order which effectively kills most of the suspense in the film. We quickly know who the villains are, who the heroes (and anti-heroes) are, and we know this is a commercial Hollywood film where tidy endings are de rigeur.

Despite the predictability of Assault on Precinct 13 the film does succeed in engaging and entertaining for the run time of the film and also provides some occasional morbid humor to lighten the mood. If Richet's 're-envisioning' garners success, one has to wonder if Ethan may have just carved out a niche for himself as an action hero.

Rating: 3 stars out of 5