In the 70’s, John Carpenter made a cult classic called Assault on Precinct 13, which many people still love for its drama and tension. Apparently. Not having seen it, its hard for me to say, but the remake starring Ethan Hawke and Laurence Fishburne is a fun and distracting way to spend an afternoon, if not particularly original.
Ethan Hawke plays a burnt out cop, formerly undercover until a disaster sent him back to a desk job. He drinks, pops pills, and has little leadership spark or drive. He is almost the opposite of his idealistic young detective in Training Day. Surrounding him are a bunch of misfits, and they are stuck inside their Precinct HQ on New Years Eve, in a snowstorm, the day before it is closed forever. Into this add a diverted prison transport, unable to cope with the snow covered roads, containing the most notorious crime figure in town who that day had been arrested for killing a cop, and the scene is set…
What Assault on Precinct 13 attempts to do is set up a duel – Hawke vs Fishburne – with uneasy, born-of-necessity allegiance contrasted with their basic natures. Cop and Crimelord, working together to their own ends, but for how long? Whilst this is an interesting idea, it doesn’t quite work. Whereas Jamie Foxx and Tom Cruise in Collateral forged this relationship, again against their natures, in Assault this never quite makes it. Perhaps it is Fishburne’s ‘Morpheus’ act?
The supporting cast are adequate, although I hate seeing Gabriel Byrne left only with bit parts like this. He is one of the best of his era, and yet in Assault he is a one-dimensional caricature.
The drama is unsurprising, although at times I wondered who was directing it. There is a lot of time spent detailing the supporting players, and yet their eventual outcomes seem rushed and sudden. This seemed uneven and at times hasty, at times laborious.
Whilst Assault on Precinct 13 has a number of major flaws, it is certainly watchable. Hawke and Fishburne both have charisma, even if they are let down by poor scripting and uncertain direction. Would make a good night at home on DVD.Rating: