Saturday, January 22, 2005

 

Movie Review: Assault On Precinct 13.

Between the President's speech and the inaugural ball I went to, I caught a showing of the remake of Assault on Precinct 13.

My review? It's okay, but I'd urge that you skip it.

My stance on remakes is pretty liberal: I'm okay with them, as long as there is an essential reason to remake the film. Either the first one failed in some way, or there's a new angle to take on a timeless story.

Unfortunately for Assault on Precinct 13, neither of those reasons apply. The original John Carpenter movie is a great block o' cheese, and the story isn't exactly timeless. Sure, the "heroes under siege" plot is rife with dramatic possibilities, but that can be done any number of ways; there's no need to remake an earlier film to tell that story.

Still, I'm not going to compare the two films; I'll just address this version.

The characters aren't fun. The bad guys and/or girls are easy to spot-- there are no surprises that certain members of the Precinct prove treasonous.

The tactics used by the dirty cops to assault the station house are ridiculous, and are designed to serve the screenplay. If I have nearly thirty police officers willing to storm a building, I'm going to use them to storm the building-- not send them one by one to get picked off and die. If I'm a trained police sniper, I'm not going to repeatedly miss shots that any teenager worth his Playstation could make. If I have access to tear gas and flash-bang grenades-- not to mention night vision!!!-- I'm going to use them from the very beginning, not hold off until later in the siege.

There's no need for deliberate hostage rescue tactics here-- the cops are here to kill our heroes, that should be a fairly easy objective. Hell, just set fire to the damn building and be done with it.


Seriously, just pull the triggers already so I can go eat dinner.

Drea De Matteo looks used. Maria Bello looks gorgeous as always, but she has little to do. Brian Dennehy is always a welcome sight, but is also wasted here. John Leguizamo is seriously annoying. Laurence Fishburne can't move his neck. Gabriel Byrne was obviously not paid by the word, as he just stands around looking pissed. Ethan Hawke gives the best performance in the movie, but it's still not good enough to save that much face.

Alright, so I've just trashed the film, yet I still say it's an okay movie. How is that possible?

Well, there's plenty of gunfire, which is always exciting. The movie establishes a nice foreboding atmosphere, particularly in the beginning. The film pulls no punches in its bloodletting, with even a few major characters getting killed at surprising moments.

Still, Assault on Precinct 13 is a perfect example of a non-essential remake. Watch it one day on HBO if you must, but until then, seek out the original and enjoy watching that version.


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