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Assault on Precinct 13

DVD Four Stars

I remember this film from the John Carpenter original, and I really couldn't see it being remade. The cast was a mixed bag for me but the presence of Gabriel Byrne, Laurence Fishburne and Brian Dennehy I was drawn to it, just to see if it could live up to the original. Yet names such as Ja Rule screamed back at me not to sully the memory of Carpenter's movie.

I went ahead anyway, and my, how I was surprised.



The opening moments of the film suggest that this is going to be a bit tougher than the average action thriller, although the whole early setup for the main character is a little too stock, taken straight out of the troubled cop filing cabinet.

Still as soon as we enter the present day and meet Fishburne and Byrne, the play is set and we race onto the Precinct itself where all the action is set to take place. Well, almost all.

If we ignore the stock character setup for Hawke, then the film does a good job of introducing all the characters without presenting us with a line up, and we get to see some subtle dynamics between them as well as firmly identifying what side each is on.

Throughout the introductions we can hear strains of Carpenter style electric soundtrack, whether this is intentional or not I'm not sure, but it does highlight something. This film has been made with a lot of reverence for the original, and it shows.

The locations are dark with a cramped and isolated feel to them. This gives us a great tone and mood for the film, which is very well photographed. The camera keeps moving and at times presents us with some stylised shots and unusual camera angles. There are some very good action sequences and it never goes over the top, keeping it very realistic, especially from the attacking Police teams.

Byrne is unfortunately in short supply in this film, although we get to see a lot of Dennehy, Fishburne, John Leguizamo, Maria Bello, and a strong performance from Ethan Hawke as the officer in charge of Precinct 13. He's natural and gives a convincing performance as a tormented cop.

There are a few surprising non-Hollywood plot turns, some moments that genuinely surprised me, however that didn't last all the way through the movie. The final sequence flips in and out of standard Hollywood fare which does leave a slightly bad taste in the mouth afterwards. What I want to know is where the forest suddenly appeared from, and why did they feel the need to tack on a nice Die Hard type wrap up to the story? Here it is tired and needless, giving nothing more to the story than we had during the previous scene.


Presented: 1.85:1 Anamorphic
There's a strong picture throughout the film which is for the most part dark. There are a few flash points and the DVD manages to cope through these scenes and keeps its levels black. The forest scenes at the end also show a great understanding of lighting which has remained strong on the transfer.


Presented: Dolby Digital 5.1
Excellent audio from the beginning with gunshots firing around you with a nice level of bass, this continues through all the action scenes in the film. There are also noticeable background noise effects throughout, particularly with the storm as you hear the wind passing behind and around you.


Presented: None
Very poor indeed. There is another version of this DVD for sale with quite a few extras, but to offer this limited version for rental doesn't inspire me to rush out and buy it.


This film is more than your average action movie and I'm surprised more wasn't made of this at release, however there are flaws, particularly with the very beginning and very end, both of which felt very Hollywood stock. It has some very well filmed scenes and choreographed action, and the impressive casting provides good performances, in Hawke's and Bello's case, quite strong.

However the DVD version is quite disappointing, bearing nothing more than the option to watch with subtitles. So although it compares very favourably with the original, provides good action entertainment and manages to push away from Hollywood stereotypes for the most part, the lack of extras does let this DVD down. I would recommend the film however.

IMDB Film details



Another 4 stars! ;-)

I saw it in the cinema because I didnt have plans to buy the DVD, having not seen the original, I really couldnt compare, but I thought it was good!

Wow, you have not seen the original Simone?

I blame myself, I should have taught you better. ;-)

Seriously all of Carpenter's early films are well worth viewing. The ice cream van scene is one of the most shockingly memorable scenes ever. (Was there a similar scene in the remake?)

Incidently Assault like many of Carpenters movies was at it's heart a remake of Rio Bravo. He even named the characters after John Wayne roles.

(He actually wanted Wayne and Charles Bronson to star in Assault on Precinct 13, but had to settle for unknowns.)

I know, I disappointed you again Morbius. :(

The original is one of my favourite movies, so I have no intention of seeing the remake.

There are so many classic, shocking moments - I'm with Morbius on the ice cream van - which are built up by soundtrack (penned by Carpenter himself, I think) and the dark, moody lighting, that it stays deep in my memory.

I think it a pity that the movie factory felt they had to remake it, though it sounds like they have made a pretty good job of it.

Like Patrick I have ignored this remake as well because the original is one of my favourite movies.

The Ice Cream van scene is indeed a cinematic classic...

The Soundtrack is indeed done by Carpenter as are many of the themes to his movies, I have the Vinyl LP of it around here somewhere, one of the best minimalist film scores ever, the main theme is fantastic.

I dont remember having an ice cream van scene in the remake. Right, right, I guess I better heed your advice guys and go see the original.



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