The F*ckin Black Sheep: Assault on Precinct 13 (2005)

THE BLACK SHEEP is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATH. We’re hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Dig in!

Assault on Precinct 13 (2005)
Directed by Jean-Francois Richet

“ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 delivers and doesn’t embarrass the original.”

Listen (or read), I’m a huge John Carpenter fan. His flicks represent a perfect time and place in movies: gritty, cheap, mean, and outside the studio system. So once Hollywood started remaking his work (and they plan more with ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK and BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA) it pained me. Rob Zombie’s HALLOWEEN is trash. 2005’s THE FOG has moments, but remains forgettable. 2011’s THE THING prequel was decent, but shouldn’t occupy the same shelf as Carpenter’s (if people still put movies on shelves). The best of the Carpenter remakes comes from a French director, Morpheus, and the guy who likes to play cops named Jake: ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13.

Assault on Precinct 13, Fishburne

In case you skipped this remake (judging from the box office of $20 million…it’s a safe bet that many did skip it), it takes place on one really, really crappy New Year’s Eve. Not only does a blizzard dump down lots of movie snow, but then things really take a downer of a turn when a broken down police precinct comes under an …assault. Involved: a tough but damaged cop, a gangster man named Bishop, a slutty secretary, a shrink, more people (who most likely get shot), and a bad cop. As expected, the night only gets worse as lots of people get shot, and lots of f*cks get said.

HALLOWEEN might have made John Carpenter a star, but ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 put him in the game. I won’t blab and blab about it, but it’s a classic. Thankfully, the 2005 edition did a lot right. It avoided just rehashing the same shit, taking things in a different direction and avoiding the usual lazy, shot for shot, beat for beat remake. This version obviously has the advantage of a larger budget ($30 million, a shit load more than the $100,000 Carpenter had for his second feature).

Minus the basic set-up, it feels like a different movie, playing more like something released during the mid-1990s, the type of action rarely seen anymore. Much like JOHN WICK, the story is simple and the action is brutal. Of course, ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 isn’t JOHN WICK. That movie worked partly because of Keanu Reeves, partly because of the style and nasty action. ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 isn’t on that level, but it’s more than an entertaining flick. It does have its own style thanks to director Jean-Francois Richet. It looks fantastic, stylistic without being obnoxious (hello Zack Snyder). Richet only directed one American action movie (this one), but I’m surprised he didn’t get more work. He showed that he had plenty of chops.

ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 boasts quite a bit of star power…actually an impressive amount. A few years after Ethan Hawke was nominated as a cop named Jake in TRAINING DAY, Hawke returns to familiar territory as Sgt. Roenick, a cop with a past and the first name Jake. Then there’s Laurence Fishburne as tough guy Marion Bishop, and Gabriel Byrne as a bad cop. They all perform as expected, which is a good thing. Then there’s Maria Bello, Drea de Matteo, John Leguizamo, Brian Dennehy, and Titus Welliver. Oh, and…Ja Rule! Hell yeah! That doesn’t mean it’s all perfect or anything. There’s some really stupid moments (the worst being de Matteo wanting sex during the shootout), but overall ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 delivers and doesn’t embarrass the original.  





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