Assault on Precinct 13

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So why remake John Carpenter’s claustrophobic ’70s urban siege classic, with Ethan Hawke and Laurence Fishburne standing in for Austin Stoker and Darwin Joston? Why Not: the name of Richet’s production company says it all. Like Jonathan Demme’s version of ‘The Manchurian Candidate’, this uses the original more as a backbone than the full skeleton, with the director blurring roles, moving locations and switching names, but maintaining the central principle (itself familiar from Hawks’ ‘Rio Bravo’): one cop and one robber, plus sundry other mismatched suckers, are holed up in an abandoned police station, while outside a gang of well-organised, well-armed ne’er-do-wells make like Romero’s zombies and prepare to tear them limb from limb.

The original spooled with the dynamic of a Nirvana song: clammy calm punctuated by extreme violence, underscored by Carpenter’s Suicide-meets-Vangelis theme. Where Carpenter’s heroes, Bishop and Wilson, were little more than charismatic ciphers, Richet accords his leads plenty of backstory and opens out the plot as he manoeuvres his ten or so characters (among them Maria Bello, Ja Rule and Brian Dennehy) into the police station where they can be whittled down one by one. The scenes within the besieged building are strongest, a solid blend of paranoia, humour and sudden death, making the decision to book-end the picture with extended sequences shot in the great outdoors all the stranger (almost as daft, in fact, as the notion to locate a police station within the secluded confines of a large pine forest). At its best, though, this is witty, tense and bloody: a homage that Carpenter might appreciate.

Release details

Rated: 15
Release date: Friday January 28 2005
Duration: 120 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Jean-François Richet
Screenwriter: James DeMonaco
Cast: Maria Bello
John Leguizamo
Brian Dennehy
Gabriel Byrne
Laurence Fishburne
Drea De Matteo
Ethan Hawke
Ja Rule
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