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Assault on Precinct 13

Unite And Fight 

Year: 2005 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: Unknown 
Certificate: BBFC 15 Cert – Not suitable for under 15s 
Subtitles: The level of subtitling in this film is unknown to WSC 
Directed by Unknown 
Starring: Unknown  
An image from Assault on Precinct 13

A remake of a cult John Carpenter flick from 1976, the plot focuses on the plight of Detroit’s Precinct 13, which finds itself under siege from a gang of thugs on New Year’s Eve. Actually, there’s a bit more to it than that, but essentially this is “Die Hard in a police station”.

The besiegers are intent on busting out their leader, a criminal mastermind named Bishop (Laurence Fishburne, still with Morepheus-like cool). Unfortunately, Precinct 13 is unable to request back-up from neighbouring stations since the stormy weather has knackered all their radios and electrics. What’s worse is that all this had to happen on the night of New Year’s Eve: when there’s only a handful of staff at the precinct, led by pen-pushing desk clerk Jake Roenick (Ethan Hawke). Cornered and with no other option, Hawk rallies the inmates and the remaining faculty - a secretary and an old detective - and they prepare to defend the fort.

Whether this movie is any better than the original is something for fans to argue over. It is an engaging thriller that is well paced and tense. It manages to do what few recent Hollywood action flicks have managed, balance realistic character development with the expected fights, shoot-outs and chases. I was particularly impressed with the handling of the relationship between Hawke’s character and Bishop - they are initially on opposing sides, but quite plausibly end up uniting against a common enemy and the film does not make the key mistake of suddenly morphing Bishop into a “good guy”: he chooses to ally with the cops out of necessity, not morals.

Great support is provided by the rest of the cast, which includes veteran Brian Dennehy and Gabriel Byrne. Byrne is particularly effective as the cold-blooded villain of the piece (Europeans aren’t good enough for any other kind of role in Hollywood, it seems). In other aspects, such as cinematography and soundtrack, there’s not much to get the heart racing. Fortunately though, this film delivers excellently in the area where it counts most: the action is tightly choreographed, fast paced and there’s a lot of it.

Amarpreet Basi

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Screenings of this film:

2004/2005 Summer Term (35mm)