Assault on Precinct 13 review by The Grim Ringler

You have to love the Hollywood system that takes a film that, even though it was made in the seventies, it is still very modern, and feels it has to remake it. Now, far be it for me to cast stones as I really liked the Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, The Blob, The Fly, The Thing, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre remakes. For me, they all showed that you could go to a familiar idea and story and tell a new tale, a tale that may not always ring as true or deep, but which rings just the same. In a perfect world wed all move forward and not backward and new properties would be developed and the graves of the dead would be left in peace. Alas, that isnt the case witness the continued remaking of Asian films. But sometimes there is a movie (and I will totally admit that Dawn was a prime example here, yet the remake went in a new direction and it worked) that even in its age it is modern and there is really nothing else to say. Watching Assault on Precinct 13 recently left me with that same feeling. A dark tale of urban warfare in a dying cityscape of modern America, a place where a choice of what side you are on, and of what you believe in are what sets the heroes apart from the villains, I just dont know what more there is to say that John Carpenter hasnt said already.

On the eve of the closing of a police precinct on the edges of the city, trouble is brewing. After a police raid on a gang that featured a mix of races, the gang has gathered its four warlords and is now planning revenge. The revenge comes with the murder of a young girl and an ice cream vendor, and when the girls father hunts down the killers of his daughter and shoots one, the revenge the gang had sought becomes focused on that one man. Seeking shelter, the man enters the all but abandoned Precinct 13, the skeleton crew consisting of a lieutenant, a desk officer and two secretaries. Uncertain why this man, who is now catatonic, has come there, or what has happened to him, the small band know they must get to the bottom of what has happened to him. Complicating matters is the fact that a bus of three criminals, one set for death row, has arrived there due to a medical emergency with one of the inmates and they must hold up, the criminals and their keepers, until help can be summoned. No help will come though as war is declared on the small police precinct and the bodies begin to pile up. When things begin to get bleak the lieutenant has no choice but to turn to those he was set to guard, the inmates, having to trust killers now against an army of pitiless gang members prepared to die for their revenge. So the survivors band together, their fates tied to one another against the waves of gang members as they crash upon the precinct, picking away at the defenses bit by bit until there is nothing to do but play out one last card, place their hope on one last gambit, and pray that help can arrive before its too late.

Simple in story and craft, this is the sort of tight, muscular film that Carpenter made his bread and butter with and became such a commodity because of. The use of a gang (instead of say Native Americans as was used in the film that inspired him Rio Bravo {and to a lesser degree Straw Dogs}) is as relevant today as it was then. The era of peace and love was ending and the glamorized gangs of hoods was gone, the reality of poverty and misdirected rage creating gangs of young people looking for an outlet for their hate. The gangs, mixed in their makeup and all but silent in their anger, are like ghosts, specters of the city and the hidden world within. The gangs represent the bubbling rage of the inner city as white flight saps the economy and resources from the cities and all but abandon the people within. Poised to battle the gangs are a group equally mixed with the lieutenant being a very strong black man who refuses to sell out the mute innocent that has turned to the precinct for help; the secretary who gladly takes up arms to fight the invaders, her quiet demeanor a match for the criminal she will fall in love with; and finally Napoleon, the death row inmate damned to die but willing to fight for his life. A man of few words and many mysteries, but who holds honor in the highest regard and who is willing to die to repay a debt. The great thing here too is that there is a romance between the secretary and Napoleon but its left to smolder, unrequited. And thank you for that. That these two people care for one another is seen in the eyes of the actors and the things they dont do or say. We dont need them to have sex or even kiss. We know their love is doomed, so let it be doomed. The action is concise, the drama is high, and the ending isnt a cheat. Its as eloquent as it is brutal.

So why remake it? Because they can. And bless Carpenters heart. Mind as well make some money on something that will be made with or without you. is there a need? I dont see one myself as, this is as smart, and action packed as you can hope for in an action film, but hey, who can say? Maybe the remake will work. For me though, this is the last word on the subject and shows a director at the top of his game. A movie this good shouldnt be as relatively obscure as it is. Lets change that and show Hollywood we dont need no stinkin remake.


8 out of 10 Jackasses
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