Assault on Precinct 13 (2005)
—About this Film
Some stories are just begging to be told. Heroes and criminals, holed up together in a stand off, outnumbered and out of options…that is the stuff of good story-telling! Maybe that is why this movie, Assault on Precinct 13, is being made now for the third time. John Carpenter has credited Howard Hawkes’ Rio Bravo as the inspiration behind his own version of Assault on Precinct 13. So, what viewers are treated to in 2005 is essentially a remake of an homage to a classic! But the story hasn’t lost much of its fun in the meantime.
The essence of this story is the standoff, the all-night siege. Anything else in the film is secondary to this story telling structure. Crunching the time frame down to one night increases the tense environment, and allows viewers to accept some decisions that characters make which would seem ludicrous in any other circumstance. Director Jean-Francois Richet, in his first English language film, uses this one night to draw out a surprising amount of character development, and pulls out every plot twist in the book as well.
The big twist in this newest version of the film is that those who are "assaulting the precinct" are dirty cops, as opposed to an organized gang army bent on avenging the deaths of their friends at the hands of the police. One interesting aspect of the dirty cops attacking the police station is that the thin line between good and evil is more deeply explored than in the original. Almost every character is conflicted in some way. Ethan Hawke’s character, Jake Roenick, has something to prove as his last undercover team was discovered and killed in action. He refuses to allow Laurence Fishburne’s character, Marion Bishop, be killed under his watch, but Bishop is a hardcase gangster who is guilty as charged. The two characters need each other to live through the assault, but won’t Roenick need to break the law by killing cops and giving criminals weapons, all in order to save Bishop? And will Bishop really rise to the occasion and deal honestly with Roenick? The film doesn’t deal with good and evil in a flippant or cheery way. The characters aren’t going to transform before your eyes as one night changes their whole outlook on the world. No, these are weary and hardened people, who just want to live to see tomorrow. But, in order to see the morning, they will have to face down a slew of challenges.
Aside from the siege plot, we are treated to an interesting perspective on God in this film. It seems movie gangsters always have some sort of relationship with God, and this film is no different. We are introduced to Bishop in a church service in which he reveals that he’s lost belief in God. He says that too many have died at his hands praying for God to save them, and because God never saved them, he no longer believes. Another character in the film, played by John Leguizamo, talks about his prayers for forgiveness after his very first crime. He tells God he is sorry, but he has already gotten hooked on the life of crime. Isn’t it a revealing thing about today’s culture to have those opinions of God so casually added to this action film? So many simply aren’t able to see the presence of God in this world, and so many are questioning why He hasn’t intervened to stop bad things from happening in their life. This attitude can be viewed with some hope. When characters are asking questions of God, even talking of their frustrations with Him, it means that they haven’t forgotten! A great problem in our society today is that believing if God exists or not is secondary to actually CARING whether He exists or not. Keep debating, keep asking! God will make Himself known to those who seek after Him.
2005’s Assault on Precinct 13 is surprisingly watchable, even for a fan of Rio Bravo or the original. Proper respect is given to John Carpenter’s original, both in the credits, and in some homage’s to Carpenter’s favorite themes such as things lurking in shadows, and paranoia. The greatest strength of this new version is that it ratchets up the action, but doesn’t delve into the sensationally unrealistic. People who get shot may die. People who take risks aren’t safe just because it is a movie. People who start out bad, pretty much stay bad! This is a brave move when studios so often require roses and redemption. Assault on Precinct 13 isn’t all roses, but it is equal parts hardcore and entertaining.
—About this Film