A Film Review
Copyright Dragan Antulov 2003
Many critics have valid arguments when they lambaste modern Hollywood for the increasingly annoying practice of remaking any successful film of the past. In case of ASSAULT ON PRECINT 13, Jean-François Richet's 2005 version of John Carpenter's 1976 cult classic, this arguments aren't so strong, because the original ASSAULT was itself a remake of Howard Hawks' 1959 western RIO BRAVO. Richet's film is, therefore, an original variation of a theme much older than most of the cinema treasure being so savagely and ineffectively plundered by contemporary studios.
The plot is set in Detroit on New Year's Eve. Precint 13, the oldest such police building in town, is about to be closed down next day, and it is manned only by burned-down Sergeant Jake Fornick (played by Ethan Hawke), veteran policeman Jasper (played by Brian Dennehy) and foul-mouthed secretary Iris (played by Drea de Matteo). Their routine is interrupted when bad weather forces prison bus to make detour and policemen now have to deal with prisoners, including Bishop (played by Laurence Fishburne), gangster who killed undercover police officer. Soon after that phone lines are down, cell phones are jammed and masked gunmen attack the precint. At first Fornick believes that the assailants are Bishop's men who want to set their boss free, but it turns out that the assailants' leader is Maurice Duval (played by Gabriel Byrne), corrupt leader of elite police unit who worries that Bishop's trial would expose him and his men. Bishop must die, together with everyone in the precint. This forces Fornick to make difficult decision and make temporary alliance with despised criminal in order to ensure mutual survival.
Equipped with bigger budget, Richet easily succeeded in making his version of ASSAULT OF PRECINT 13 look more spectacular than Carpenter's. The action scenes are more intense and the violence is more graphic. The cast is made of stars and plenty of recognisable faces, including rapper JA Rule. However, the large budget also made the film less interesting – with so many stars and their position within on the cast list it was easy to predict what would happen to each of the characters. James De Monaco's script also brought too many character development compared with Carpenter's ascetic original. Too often this drags movie's plot, especially in the case of police psychologist, played by Maria Bello. On the other, this also provided for some fine acting, for which good example could be found in John Leguizamo and his character of drugged-out ranting prisoner. Gabriel Byrne, on the other hand, doesn't provide anything in his role of corrupt policeman, who is less convincing than Carpenter's army of zombie-like gang bangers.
James De Monaco's script also represents disappointment because it, unlike Carpenter's original, has some serious plot holes – too many important things in this film happen by accident, while some scenes defy continuity. Subversive politics of the original and Carpenter's near-dystopic comment on 1970s nihilism is replaced by cheap formula and Hollywood "political correctness". Yet, despite all those flaws and unavoidable disappointments for any fan of the original ASSAULT ON PRECINT 13, Richet's film provides more than enough entertainment in its 109 minutes and deserves recommendation.
RATING: 6/10 (++)