Assault on Precinct 13 Review

A horrid change of pace from the John Carpenter original is in store for those that dive into Assault on Precinct 13. Remakes are inevitable, but quality is rare even if there are earnest intentions behind it. Jean-François Richet does not hit the ground running with his big Hollywood break in the directing chair. It is not as if he doesn’t have the cast to take this chilling Carpenter-based piece to new and interesting heights. Unfortunate it is to see Assault on Precinct 13 turn immediately toward grimy tones and inevitably lighter moments in the first act to prep audiences for the surge of violence on the horizon.

Rather than a tight and tense reason for these characters to come together at the police station, Assault on Precinct 13 spends far too long building up character dynamics already established off-screen. Survival in an outsider environment is apparently not enough to satiate the big desires of Richet, whose only real twists and turns are a Christmas backdrop and a solid draw from Laurence Fishburne. He has tense scenes as crime leader Marion Bishop but is never quite on his A-Game. He buoys the rest of the cast exceptionally, though. Gabriel Byrne looks tired and not particularly interested. Who can blame him? He is given little to do other than limply shake hands and stroll through corridors.

With harsh rock music on the soundtrack shredding guitars and cutting corners for the narrative, Assault on Precinct 13 feels more like a parody of the great and dark turf-war films that came before it. Hawke’s inclusion elicits slight comparisons to Training Day, but never quite reaches the animosity and mood that was possible in that feature. Where the original had favourable influences on The Warriors, the Richet remake does little to expand on the world Carpenter presented in his sophomore outing. Expansion is nowhere close to appearing. Hawke and company are closed off, literally and figuratively, from the world outside the police station they’re confined to. Richet has trouble closing off character relationships without one or both being shot, wounded or having a heart-to-heart right before some grand gesture or moment appears. Shoddy writing is the heart of those character deficiencies.

Mouth to mouth for a gunshot wound to the stomach, a wound-inflicted Hawke and enough murky browns and green to convince audiences they’re watching a confused Tony Scott feature, Assault on Precinct 13 is scared of what could have been. Dumb moments are frequent but do not set the pace for the bleak atmosphere that surrounds these burnt-out characters. The opportunity is there to create something heavy-hitting and action-packed. That is not too far from the mark of the original. Even if it were articulating the thoughts of the original with crystal-clear vision, Assault on Precinct 13 is hollow and uneventful. There is nothing that sets this apart from a deluge of action features that released around the same time. It is a head above what was to come in the following years, but that is not a high bar to reach. A remake of a Carpenter classic should not be too difficult, yet it is for Richet and his ensemble.

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