|Assault on Precinct 13 (2005)
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Laurence Fishburne, John Leguizamo, Gabriel Byrne, Maria Bello, Drea de Matteo
Rating: Jean-Francois Richet
Most of today's action films choose to show their level of violence by way of a high body count and immense explosive sequences, but "Assault on Precinct 13" has carefully selected to display its small spurts of violence with gritty gun warfare and explicit pointy-objects striking mostly the neck-and-head region. And where most action films follow suit with the usual blueprint for success, "Precinct 13" dares to take a more radical road away from the common trip to the movies. With a reverberating similarity to courageous TV dramas like "24" and "The Shield," "Assault on Precinct 13" is not afraid to surprise the audience with outrageous events and the unexpected deaths of its main characters. Loosely based on the earlier John Carpenter B-movie of the same name, "Assault on Precinct 13" offers a nice supply of gratuitous violence and a few noteworthy performances that should continue to make this January season a delightful surprise.
It's New Year's Eve and the men of precinct 13 are packing up the remaining remnants of the broken-down police station before heading out for the night. Sergeant Jake Roenick (Ethan Hawke) and his confidant Jasper O'Shea (Brian Dennehy) are left behind to work the graveyard shift with a dangerous blizzard swirling around outside, but they aren’t going to let that get in their way of celebrating the New Year. Along with their sexy secretary Iris (Drea de Matteo) and Jake’s psychologist Alex (Maria Bello), the two officers are drinking and dancing the night away when a prisoner transport is forced to pull off the roads and stop off at the unprepared precinct. Three amateur criminals (played by Aisha Hinds, Ja Rule and John Leguizamo) accompany the notorious gangster Bishop (Lawrence Fishburne) into the cells when the building is suddenly attacked by a group of trained men looking to kill him. Roenick refuses to let the cop-killing “scumbag” out of his sight, and instead teams up with the other criminals in order to fend off the gunfire until daylight.
“Precinct 13” has solid action sequences that keep the tempo of the movie flowing, but the script is full of plot holes and is overall incredibly predictable to the average filmgoer. It seemed to me pretty clear who the real bad guy was throughout the entire film, yet the writers still chose to reveal the character as the big twist of the story. Most of the casting is dead-on - especially with Leguizamo and Fishburne - but Brian Dennehy displays some of the worst acting I have ever seen on screen by a veteran actor. Lawrence Fishburne is the complete opposite, however, and is exceptionally enjoyable as a gangster version of Morpheus while Leguizamo continues to establish himself as one of the best character actors in the industry. You won't be expecting too much walking in to "Assault on Precinct 13," but the formidable cast of Hollywood go-getters will surely change your mind in just under two hours.
The “Assault on Precinct 13” widescreen DVD offers a decent collection of special features, but they’re mostly all too short to enjoy. The single-disc release offers four production featurettes that focus on weapons, stunts, production design, and the various crew members that worked on the film. Also included on the DVD are a handful of mediocre deleted scenes and an HBO First Look behind-the-scenes documentary and interviews with cast and crew.