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Jean-François Richet
Ethan Hawke, Laurence Fishburne, Ja Rule, Maria Bello, Peter Bryant, Gabriel Byrne, Fulvio Cecere, Kim Coates, Matt Craven, Brian Dennehy
Writing Credits:
John Carpenter (earlier film), James DeMonaco

Unite and fight.

Ethan Hawke and Laurence Fishburne lead an all-star cast, including John Leguizamo, Ja Rule and Drea de Matteo, in the explosive, action-packed thriller, Assault on Precinct 13.

Run-down Precinct 13 is about to close its doors forever. But everything changes when some of Detroit’s most lethal prisoners arrive. Soon, the only thing more dangerous than the criminals on the inside is the rogue gang on the outside. To survive the night, two men on opposite sides of the law will have to work together to battle an enemy who doesn’t follow the code of cop or criminal.

Box Office:
$20 million.
Opening Weekend
$6.502 million on 2297 screens.
Domestic Gross
$19.976 million.

Rated R

Widescreen 2.40:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English DTS 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1

Runtime: 109 min.
Price: $29.98
Release Date: 5/10/2005

Disc One
• Audio Commentary with Director Jean-Francois Richet, Writer James DeMonaco and Producer Jeffrey Silver
• Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary
• “Armed and Dangerous” Featurette
• “Behind Precinct Walls” Featurette
• “Plan of Attack” Featurette
• “The Assault Team” Featurette
• “Caught in the Crosshairs” Featurette


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Assault On Precinct 13 (2005)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 24, 2005)

Someday I predict all movies will either be remakes or sequels. And then we’ll get just sequels to remakes or remakes of sequels.

We’ve not gone that far yet, though the 2005 version of Assault on Precinct 13 acts as something of a remake of a remake. A moderately big-budget reworking of John Carpenter’s 1976 original, the earlier movie essentially remade 1959’s Rio Bravo. I suppose the original Assault took Bravo more as an inspiration than a true source to be remade, but any way you look at it, the material for the 2005 version’s been around quite some time.

Police officer Sergeant Jake Roenick (Ethan Hawke) leads a drug bust that goes badly awry and ends in the deaths of two of his cohorts. Eight months later, we find him on New Year’s Eve as he works with a skeleton crew at Detroit’s Precinct 13 to shut it down before they move to a new building. He’s been on painkillers since the prior incident and sees counselor Dr. Alex Sabian (Maria Bello) because he seems afraid to return to active duty; he used to be a forceful street officer, but now he prefers a desk job and uses his wound from the failed bust as an excuse. At the old building, we meet slutty secretary Iris Ferry (Drea DeMatteo) and soon-to-retire old-timer cop Jasper (Brian Dennehy).

In the meantime, we meet criminal boss Marion Bishop (Laurence Fishburne) as he gets arrested for the murder of a cop. Marcus Duvall (Gabriel Byrne) heads up the Organized Crime and Racketeering squad, and Bishop apparently killed one of Duvall’s men. Due to the holiday, Bishop won’t go through arraignment for a couple of days, so they need to keep him under wraps until then.

Matters warm up at Precinct 13 when the prison bus that transports Bishop and others gets rerouted to the old building. A storm blocks the original path, so despite Jake’s protests, Bishop and the others get incarcerated at Precinct 13. The cast of supporting criminals includes alleged gangbanger Anna (Aisha Hinds) who constantly protests her innocence, counterfeit merchandise specialist Smiley (Ja Rule), and small-time crook/junkie Beck (John Leguizamo). Alex also gets stuck in the building due to the snow, which leads to some conflict with Jake, as he resents her psychological intrusions.

The quiet night gets noisy when some masked figures infiltrate the building. They kill one cop (Kim Coates) and badly wound another (Dorian Harewood) before they’re forced to retreat. However, with all forms of communication down, the leftovers stuck in the Precinct are forced to fend for themselves and deal with the issues. It appears that Bishop’s men are there to take him back, but the situation gets more complicated, and all sides - criminal and police - are forced to fight against the attack.

Invert both the strengths and weaknesses of the original Assault and you have the remake. On the positive side, the 2005 take offers much stronger production values and vastly superior actors. Indeed, the new Assault boasts a surprisingly solid roster of performers. Via Hawke and Fishburne, we have two Oscar-nominated players, and others like Byrne, Dennehy and Leguizamo have garnered a fair amount of praise through their careers. While the actors in the original flick bordered on amateurish, I can’t say the same for the remake’s crew, and they add some depth to their characters.

Unfortunately, there’s only so much they can do with these stock, one-dimensional personalities. The filmmakers attempt to bring depth to the roles, but they never come across as anything other than trite. I especially dislike the whole backstory given to Jake. What’s the point of his “scared to go back on the street” subplot? No one cares about that, and it adds nothing to the tale.

Frankly, we go to a movie like this for rock-‘em sock-‘em action, which is why the original fared pretty well. It was cheap, it was ugly, and it suffered from bland to poor acting. However, Carpenter infused it with enough energy and spark to make it a big ball of violent fun.

Never does the remake threaten to turn into anything with one-tenth the energy. This is Action Filmmaking 101, as director Jean-Francois Richet steals visuals from all the usual suspects and brings absolutely no personality to the proceedings. We get the usual stylized look and jerky visuals without any sense of brightness or life. We’ve seen many films with similar tones, and most of them are better than this dull tale.

Assault also suffers from a generic script without any distinctiveness. We get stuck with too many witless expository scenes and too much predictable action. Actually, I must admit that the flick tosses out a few surprises, but those are few and far between in this generally unsurprising effort. I don’t care for the oddly glib ending either. After all the death and mayhem of the preceding period, does it make sense that the survivors are so cavalier?

No, it doesn’t. This isn’t a Die Hard movie filled with wisecracks, even though Assault does seem to take quite a few cues from 1990’s Die Hard 2. I noticed more than a few similarities between the two movies; at times this flick came across more as a remake of the Bruce Willis hit than the John Carpenter film.

At least Assault veers away from the original in many ways and doesn’t simply reshoot it. Too bad most of those choices hurt the movie and bring nothing new to the table. I love action flicks and really wanted to like Assault. Unfortunately, it never engaged me and just left me bored.

The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio A- (DTS) B+ (DD)/ Bonus B-

Assault on Precinct 13 appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Though not rife with flaws, the transfer lacked the sparkle necessary to excel on a consistent basis.

None of the problems related to sharpness. Maybe a smidgen of softness interfered on a few wide shots, but those remained minor. The vast majority of the movie seemed crisp and concise. Jagged edges and shimmering created no issues, and only a smidgen of edge enhancement was apparent. A few specks popped up through the movie. These weren’t much of a distraction, though.

Assault presented a severely restricted palette. That’s typical of modern action flicks, and it suited the grim winter setting. When colors appeared, they seemed fine, but don’t expect much from the intensely gray-blue visuals. Blacks were fairly dense and deep, but shadows were erratic. At times the low-light shots appeared distinctive and well-defined, but other shots came across as dense and too opaque. In fact, the presence of the clean low-light scenes made the problematic ones even more noticeable. Ultimately, that factor was the main issue with the transfer, as it made this dark movie less attractive than I’d expect.

Matters improved for the film’s soundtracks. Assault on Precinct 13 presented both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 mixes. I thought the DTS version was a little stronger. I’ll discuss it first and then relate why I preferred it.

Given the movie’s many action scenes, I expected a lot of auditory information, and the track delivered. From the opening drug bust through the extended titular attack, the mix opened up matters well and delivered a lively, involving setting. Gunfire created the most prominent element, as bullets zipped all around us. Other effects also popped up in logical spots and created a fine sense of place. The mix cranked the action into high gear and did so well.

Audio quality was solid. Speech consistently appeared natural and distinctive, with no edginess or concerns related to intelligibility. Music was bright and bold, as the score showed good range and detail. Effects packed a punch. Gunfire and explosions blasted us with clean, realistic tones. Bass response occasionally seemed slightly boomy, but usually the low-end was smooth and tight.

Why did I favor the DTS track over the Dolby Digital one? It seemed more aggressive and powerful. The DD mix presented a similar soundfield but it came across as slightly restricted by comparison. It wasn’t as dynamic, but it remained pretty good on its own.

While not packed with extras, Assault on Precinct 13 comes with a mix of materials. First we find an audio commentary with director Jean-Francois Richet, writer James DeMonaco and producer Jeffrey Silver. All three sit together for this running, screen-specific piece. Though not without its strengths, the commentary ends up as fairly average.

The trio touch on a good number of topics. They get into references to the original flick and various other homages, casting and working with the actors, sets and locations, visual effects, stunts, script variations, and general notes. For the most part, they keep the track moving, though dead air creeps in at times. Unfortunately, quite a lot of bland praise pops up as well, and that factor can make the chat tedious. If I downed some booze every time Richet said “I love zis shot!” I’d have been trashed by the movie’s conclusion. We learn a reasonable amount about the flick, but the self-congratulatory tone makes this a mediocre commentary at best.

Five deleted scenes run a total of six minutes and 10 seconds. Mostly these provide minor character bits like a little more antagonism between Bishop and Jasper or Bishop flirting with Iris. Also mentioned in the main commentary, the most significant shows Duvall as he puts one of his men out of his misery. I can understand why they cut it, but it’s a surprisingly interesting sequence.

We can view the sequences with or without commentary from Richet. He gives us quick notes about why he chopped out the different scenes. Richet usually sticks with basics and provides little insight into the editing process. Only the Duvall scene receives much discussion, but we already know what Richet has to say about it from the main commentary.

Next we find five featurettes. Armed and Dangerous lasts four minutes, 54 seconds, and includes movie clips, behind the scenes materials, and interviews. We hear from weapons specialist Charles Taylor. He takes us on a tour of his “mobile armory” to show us the movie’s guns up close, and he also tells us a little about their use in the movie. Taylor provides enough information to make this moderately useful.

After this comes the seven-minute and 28-second Behind Precinct Walls. It presents comments from production designer Paul Austerberry as he takes us on a tour of the main precinct set. He tells us some design notes and offers a decent little take on his work.

With Plan of Attack, we get a four-minute and 27-second look with information from stunt coordinator Steve Lucescu. He talks about the specifics of sequences like an actor on fire and an SUV crash, and he also discusses general stunt concerns. Like the other featurettes, this one’s brevity makes it fairly superficial, but it adds a few nice bits.

Up next, The Assault Team fills five minutes, 17 seconds. We hear from Silver, Richet, and DeMonaco. They talk about the story, the movie’s tone, and issues related to the shoot. What little information we get mostly appears in the commentary as well, and this piece aims mostly to praise the participants. Some decent behind the scenes snippets appear, but they’re not enough to make this anything other than fluffy.

For the final featurette, Caught in the Crosshairs takes 12 minutes, 34 seconds. Another promotional piece, we hear from Silver, Richet, DeMonaco and actors Ethan Hawke, Maria Bello, Brian Dennehy, John Leguizamo, Laurence Fishburne, Gabriel Byrne, Aisha Hinds, Drea de Matteo and Ja Rule. They discuss the story and characters, and some notes about shooting the flick. Movie clips dominate this glorified trailer.

A few promos open the DVD. We get ads for Unleashed, White Noise, and Seed of Chucky.

Though the original Assault of Precinct 13 is no classic, it looks awfully good in comparison with this tepid remake. Despite a stronger cast and better production values, the 2005 Assault is a bland, forgettable flick. The DVD presents good picture, terrific audio, and a collection of sporadically interesting extras. Generic action filmmaking at its least memorable, I can’t recommend Assault.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2.75 Stars Number of Votes: 12
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