Assault on Precinct 13
Reviewed by: Brett Willis
Action, Drama, Crime, Thriller
1 hr. 49 min.
Year of Release:
January 19, 2005 (wide)
Does God really exist? How can we know? If God made everything, who made God? Answer
What if the cosmos is all that there is? Answer
Tips for Christians on how to share your faith with atheists—GO
Why aren’t my prayers answered? Answer
What is prayer? Answer
What about the issue of suffering? Doesn’t this prove that there is no God and that we are on our own? Answer
GOD’S PROTECTION—What about the Psalm 91 promises? Answer
Does God feel our pain? Answer
“Unite and fight”
This remake of the John Carpenter classic opened on a Wednesday night, making it the only debut that night. I went to a 9:30 showing, and there was only one other person in the theatre. Not exactly taking the entertainment world by storm. Carpenter himself said in an interview that remaking a film like this simply proves once again that Hollywood has no new ideas left.
The story is set in Detroit, but was reportedly shot in Toronto. In the opening sequence, which appears abruptly without titles and which is shot in a jerky, roughly-edited style, we see Jake Roenick (Ethan Hawke) appearing to be a drug dealer making a major sale to another dealer. Jake has a partner and a girlfriend at the deal, and the other guy has a partner and a vicious dog. Although Jake spews a dozen or so uses of f* and gives a convincing impression that he’s a drug user as well as a dealer, the other guys eventually catch on that Jake’s team are undercover cops. In the ensuing firefight, everyone except Jake and the dog is killed, and Jake is shot in the leg. There’s one sequence of a person being shot through the forehead, with blood-splatter (the first of many in the film).
Forward about eight months, to New Year’s Eve 2004/2005. Due to his injury, and to psychological problems from second-guessing his leadership decisions that got his team killed, Jake is riding a desk at Precinct 13. Now, that ancient precinct is being officially closed at the end of the year. Most of the equipment has been shipped out. The precinct is staffed for the evening by only a skeleton crew consisting of Jake, a near-retirement officer named Jasper O’Shea (Brian Dennehy), and a police secretary who says she has a bad habit of liking to have sex with “bad guys.” And all incoming calls are being diverted to another Precinct. The crew is just there to baby-sit the building until the stroke of Midnight. Strange. Or should I say “setup?”
Meanwhile, high-profile criminal Marion Bishop (Laurence Fishburne) meets with “Ray Ray” (Fulvio Cecere) during a church service, and has a disagreement with him. Ray, an undercover cop, tries to arrest Bishop. Bishop outmaneuvers him and kills him with a knife to the neck, so silently that the worshippers near them don’t even notice. But when Bishop tries to leave, a massive force of police, reporting to Marcus DuVall (Gabriel Byrne), has the building staked out. Bishop is arrested. He adamantly tells his lawyer that he mustn’t spend even one night on the inside. But since it’s New Year’s and the weekend, there’s no choice. Even if he makes bail, he can’t be processed out for two days. That night, Bishop and three other prisoners are transported by prison bus, but due to a snowstorm, the bus is diverted from its original destination and the driver (Dorian Harewood) is ordered to put the prisoners up for the night in Precinct 13 (as I said, “setup”).
The rest of the film is fairly predictable in overall plot, but unusual in some of the details. The three precinct staff and two prisoner-transport officers are joined by Jake’s psychiatrist, Dr. Alex Sabian (Maria Bello), whose car stalled in the storm when she tried to leave after her weekly counseling session with Jake. So, there are ten people inside, including the prisoners. Outside, there’s a force of bad guys numbering many more than ten. They want Bishop. They’ve somehow not only cut the phone lines to the building, but even disabled the good guys’ cell phones (movie magic).
In the face of this siege, and with no prospect of getting help during the storm, Jake is forced to reassert his leadership skills. When he chooses to arm the prisoners, there’s some resistance from the other cops. But under the circumstances (I’m withholding some details here) it’s the best way to fulfill his duty to protect everyone.
Sex/Nudity: There’s no sexual activity or explicit nudity. There’s dancing, and a kiss or two. Two women (the police secretary and the psychiatrist) wear revealing New Year’s celebration outfits during the assault. There’s a fair amount of sexual talk, both literal and figurative. While a freed and armed Bishop comforts the secretary, with an arm around her shoulders, he talks about a close link between sex and death.
Violence: There are a great many graphic killings, by firearms, Molotov cocktails, stabbings and other means. In a scene borrowed from “Die Hard 2,” a bad guy is stabbed through the eye with an icicle. Several unwritten “movie rules” are violated in this film. Some innocent people are killed. Some people we care about are killed. And there’s even simulated animal abuse.
Language: There are about 250 profanities including cursing, blasphemy, and sexual, anatomical and bodily function references. About half of the total profanities are some form of f*.
In the church sequence, Bishop asserts that he doesn’t believe in God. When Ray says he thought ALL “brothers” believed in God, Bishop replies that he’s seen many men facing death (presumably at his own hand) and begging God for mercy. After all those unanswered prayers, Bishop decided that no one was listening.
Answers of interest
Miscellaneous content: There’s drinking, smoking, use of illegal drugs, and abuse of legal prescription drugs. And, obviously, a hefty dose of bad attitudes.
Positive content: When his hand is forced by the circumstances, Jake overcomes his misgivings and rediscovers his leadership skills. Some other characters, thrown unexpectedly into this crisis, show courage and resolve.
The acting is quite good all around, even though the plot is cheesy. The production budget was probably average for a film of this type. The action is at a contained location, which lowers costs. On the other hand, filming on snow, and especially filming during a snowstorm (whether real or simulated), is expensive. There were some inconsistencies, such as the prison bus flipping back and forth between burning and not burning. And the psychiatrist shows up at the precinct for Jake’s regular Thursday session, although Dec. 31, 2004 was a Friday. But the biggest drawback is that this is a fairly mindless action film, with an unbelievable storyline and insufficient character development. This is the kind of film that made oodles of money in the 1980s, but hasn’t fared so well since then.
Recommendation: Adults who don’t mind having their ears burn and who can tolerate a heavy dose of special-effects blood will be glad to know that this genre isn’t dead. Anyone else should probably avoid this film.
Violence: Heavy / Profanity: Extreme / Sex/Nudity: Moderate
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.
Parts are entertaining and your mind is wondering how the good guys plan to get themselves out of the constant corners they find themselves in. The melding of the cops and prisoners to form the good guy team was fun and could have been taken to a higher level if the characters were treated more than just fodder for the bad guys. There’s plenty of action, nothing you haven’t seen before, but nevertheless fast paced action. In the end, nothing pans out that couldn’t be predicted and nothing too much of a twist. Granted, I’m not sure how the original ends; however, with the twist end fad overwhelming film, it is no surprise what happens here.
Content wise, families will not appreciate the slew of foul language that soaks the film, especially with over a hundred uses of the f-word. Violence is also extreme as people are shot, stabbed, blown up seen from varying distances. Sexuality is limited to several suggestive comments. Overall, a fast paced action flick, but one you will instantly forget after leaving the theater.