Dir: Jean-FrancoisRichet. US. 2005. 109mins.
One of the first filmsproduced under Focus Features' genre division Rogue Pictures, Assault OnPrecinct 13 is an efficient action feature which might not break any newground in the genre, but will keep a male action-loving audience happy.Theatrical results will be good, if not spectacular; audiences will feel moresatisfied watching the film on TV or DVD.
Loosely based on JohnCarpenter's famous 1976 no-budget thriller, the new Assault is plottedno more intricately than an episode of Law And Order or CSI,although its rich ensemble cast lifts the material out of the small screenrealm. Strong production values and slick direction by France's Jean-FrancoisRichet (Ma 6-T Va Crack-er, Etat Des Lieux) enhance its value asa commercial property.
The premise from theoriginal remains roughly the same. One snowbound New Year's Eve in downtownDetroit, a disillusioned cop Sergeant Jake Roenick (Hawke) and his sleepy staffbring in the new year in the rundown, soon-to-be-closed Precinct 13. But theyare suddenly snapped to life when a police transport carrying powerful crimelord Marion Bishop (Fishburne) is forced to stop for the night at the precinctdue to the snowstorm outside.
With Bishop and the othercriminals from the bus safely locked up, all seems to be well, until a gang ofmasked gunmen arrives and tries to enter the building. Roenick gathers his meagreforces - the old school cop Jasper O'Shea (Dennehy), his stranded psychologist(Bello) and feisty secretary Iris (De Matteo) among them - to fend off thegunmen.
But when he discovers thatthe attackers are all crooked cops out to silence Bishop before he rats onthem, he forges an uneasy alliance with the prisoners, arms them and mounts afull-scale defence of the precinct in the hope that they can make it throughtill morning.
Richet stages some tautaction sequences, laced with graphic violence which will earn adult ratings inmost territories. The numerous successive deaths of leading characters willsurprise many in the audience used to more lenience in the killing off of theirheroes, but teenage action fans will lap up the carnage.
Perhaps the irony ofremaking such a wonderfully cheap cult classic with a proper budget is that theendearing kinks are ironed out and the sheer energy which galvanised theformulaic elements is lost, leaving a dull polish and a creaky plot.
Thank goodness for thecollective charisma of the cast, which works wonders in making this Assaultmore compelling than it could have been. Hawke, carrying an action film on hisshoulders for the first time, is highly persuasive and Fishburne is effectivelybrooding as his unlikely partner, while De Matteo (as a lovable tart), Dennehy(as an Irish cop), Bello (as the intelligent broad), Leguizamo (as a Hispanichood) and Byrne (as the bad guy) all play to type with their customaryexpertise.
The snowy holiday setting isreminiscent of the similarly-themed but far superior Die Hard 2. Indeed,a pre-Christmas release might have been more favourable for a film with such aseasonal flavour.
Prod cos: Why Not Productions, Liaison Films, BiscaynePictures, Rogue Pictures
US dist: Focus Features/RoguePictures
Int'l sales: Focus Features
Exec prods: Don Carmody,Sebastien Kurt Lemercier, Joseph Kaufman
Prods: Pascal Caucheteux,Stephane Sperry, Jeffrey Silver
Scr: James DeMonaco, based on thefilm written by John Carpenter
Cine: Robert Gantz
Ed: Bill Pankow
Mus: Graeme Revell
Main cast: Ethan Hawke, LaurenceFishburne, John Leguizamo, Maria Bello, Jeffrey "Ja Rule" Atkins, Drea deMatteo, Matt Craven, Brian Dennehy, Gabriel Byrne