Directed by Jean-François Richet (2005)
Reviewed by MaT, added on Feb 24 2006
On New Year's Eve, a police precinct (13 duh!) has reached the end of its usefullness and is closing shop. A few cops and the whorish secretary decide to take a break from boxing up the last remaining remnants of the station to celebrate the New Year. Outside, a raging snowstorm has forced a police bus to stop at the precinct until the storm passes. The bus happens to contain Marion Bishop (Larry Fishburne), a notorious crimelord who just so happened to murder a cop in one of the opening scenes of the film. Among the other criminals are an annoying John Leguizamo, some shitty rapper/"actor", and the token "tough black chick". Ethan Hawke plays Jake Roenick, a cop who blames himself for the deaths of his team during a botched bust and has resigned himself to a desk job so he doesn't need to take responsibility. You can see where this is going right? As the inmates are forced to stay for the night in Precinct 13, a mysterious group of figures assaults the station, demanding Bishop be turned over. Hawke's morals kick in and this motley band of criminals and cops decide to make a stand against the enemies outside...
I will admit up front that I had no desire to see this film. The John Carpenter original is outstanding and all impressions I had gathered from this re-make was that it was going to suck harder than a 12 year old Vietnamese girl on Gary Glitter's cock (wow. that was even low for me...). So when I saw it was going to be on HBO, I decided to give it a shot. Strangely, though the film was terrible, it had some weird hold on me and I couldn't keep myself from not watching the whole thing. Keep in mind, I wanted to turn this thing off. In fact, many times (mostly during any scene involving Ethan Hawke "acting") it crossed my mind that I could be doing better things, like say, editing The Grand Horror, but to its credit, the film kept me entertained long enough to get me through it.
The biggest problem with this new version of Assault is that it doesn't do anything that's really interesting. There's no "Ice Cream Truck" scene that is powerful enough to stick in your mind. The acting is atrocious, which is surprising considering the cast. Imagine Morpheus as a gangster and you'll get Fishburne's emotionless performance. I've never witnessed Ethan Hawke give a decent performance in his life with the exception of Gattaca, and in this film he just can't pull off the "macho cop turned pussy turned badass". The other characters are just cannon fodder for the high tech baddies outside which brings me to another point: this film showcases the WORST snipers in film history. These guys are supposed to be hotshots?! Maybe they had too many "bad guy bullets" in those sniper rifles but it seemed like they couldn't hit the broad side of a barn. Sure, they pick off a couple convicts, yet can't seem to nail Hawke or Fishburne in the head when they are both staring out a window directly towards them? Weak.
Still, this film isn't all bad. I can't really explain it, but it is watchable, bearing in mind that you aren't in the mood for anything other than a crappy action film. It's one of those films that tricks you by making you think it's actually decent when you finish watching it, but then you completely forget it exists three minutes later. I can't in good conscience recommend Assault on Precinct 13 (although I can recommend the John Carpenter original. It is a far superior film), but if you find yourself flipping through the channels and you come upon this playing some night on HBO...wait, what am I saying? No, don't watch this.
Comments from Jeff...
I really disagree with Mat on this one. I think the AoP13 remake is at least as good as, and maybe even superior to the original. Of course, due credit goes to the Carpenter version, but I feel the remake added some good ideas.
For instance, the new version's bad guys have a much more believeable motivation for laying siege to the precinct. If I remember correctly, the bad guys in the original were just some generic ne'er-do-wells who wreaked havoc just for kicks. Motivationless villains, killers who do it "just because" can work and can be very menacing, but I don't think the original AoP13 pulls it off.
Mat mentions that the remake doesn't have a moment that compares to the ice-cream truck scene in the original - and I agree that's a great scene, probably one of my all-time favorites - but I think the remake's scene with lead villain Gabriel Byrne and Maria Bello's plucky police psychologist character out in the snow was unexpected and has some punch.