Assault on Precinct 13 - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Assault on Precinct 13 Reviews

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½ November 2, 2016
John Carpenter's career kickstarting "Assault on Precinct 13" (1976) isn't much able to be as gritty as it'd like because money isn't always as ample for directors still trying to prove themselves, but akin to most masters of the celluloid is he able to make something special out of basically nothing. Like his very own Mario Bava, an Italian horror maestro who was able to make a superb piece of atmospheric terror with just a couple bare sets, a barrage of plastic rocks, gaudy stage lights, and a smoke machine on overdrive with 1965's "Planet of the Vampires," Carpenter's able to rise action blockbuster imitating adrenaline out of us with a handful of prop guns, a scattering of willing actors, and a single set. Cheap it feels, but that's part of the fun: "Assault on Precinct 13" is makeshift suspense supple its thrills and bracing in its simplicity.
As its title effectively advertises its premise, unsurprising is the film's revolving around an attack on a defunct police station by a ruthless gang. Seeking revenge as a result of LAPD officers ambushing and killing six members of the criminal outlet, affiliates swear to break a twisted sort of even with the law and with the citizens of Los Angeles. Precinct 13 only become a target hours later due to the shooting of an innocent bystander, who heads to the station - in the process of relocation itself - to seek help.
The only remaining personnel at the precinct are Lieutenant Ethan Bishop (Austin Stoker), a newbie assigned to watch over the station for its last few hours, Sergeant Chaney (Henry Brandon), a law enforcement veteran, and a pair of secretaries, one self-possessed (Laurie Zimmer) and one skittish (Nancy Loomis). No one's prepared for the very real threat that's about to hit them, but because Bishop's got fire in him that advertises why he got hired in the first place and because a mix-up leads a ragtag team of coincidentally escaped prisoners to aid the heroes that initially locked them up, this quasi battle of LA might still end up being won by the accidental brave hearts that don't choose to use the word relentless in place of their middle name.
In "Assault on Precinct 13" do we have my favorite kind of thriller, a thriller in which convolutions and plot twists aren't part of the ball game. Preferred is a sparse ensemble, an uncomplicated plot, and action better at getting the job done than being detrimentally flashy. From 1975's "Jaws" to even 2005's "Red Eye," I like my cinematic sweat to drip often and reliably; every once in a while do the melodramatics of suspense greats a la De Palma and Hitchcock fail to do it for me. Refreshing is a thrill unafraid to find the beauty in straightforwardness.
In store is one of Carpenter's most accomplished films, despite its being only his second in a career of twenty-one. In two years would he find myself to be a genre definer with 1978's flawless "Halloween"; in four he'd find a long and successful professional collaborator in the inimitable Kurt Russell. Like the Coen Brothers's "Blood Simple" (1984) or Don Siegel's "The Big Steal" (1949), "Assault on Precinct 13" stands as a precursor to a great career - and it only gets better with age.
October 30, 2016
Grindhouse movies tend to be slow, but this is beyond ridiculous. I feel a lot of the cult status surrounding this movie is that John Carpenter directed. However, as someone who has never been that big a fan of him, but with that even said it the movie was a slog. Nothing ever happens, nothing. Characters are uninteresting and nothing feels like it deserves the hype behind it. Too slow, and too uninteresting.
½ October 19, 2016
Definitely Had Tension To The Max. A Little Lost On Me Tho With All The Tough Talkin' 'Not On My Watch!' Rubbish..Kept Just Tuning Out. Lotta Guns & Upped The Ante (For It's Day) On Gun Violence...& We Wonder Why People Go Postal After Watching This Hrmm?
October 11, 2016
John Carpenter does Rio Bravo. The scumbags are textbook inner city and the ice-cream scene gets more shocking every time you see it. My favorite soundtrack from Carpenter brings the carnage up a notch.
September 4, 2016
My new favorite movie enough said.
½ August 17, 2016
Considered by many to be one of John Carpenter's best films, Assault on Precinct 13 sounded like a straight-up action classic.

Assault on Precinct 13 is a classic example of a high concept film. The story is a combination between Howard Hawks' Rio Bravo (1959) and George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead (1968) set in a contemporary setting. Straight out of the sex, drugs and rock 'n roll era of Hollywood, Assault on Precinct 13 marks a notorious time where John Carpenter had full creative control over a film and desired to churn out a strong exploitation piece. With his clever plotting, John Carpenter is able to create an action-thriller narrative with a very small setting and convey a feeling of rich claustrophobia that comes with it. The atmosphere in the film is very consistent, and as a result the feature rarely drags. It still has its slow moments during the scenes where nothing major is happening aside from the characters explaining their situation, but this is an obligatory part of the narrative which is particularly forgivable when considering the limitations of such a low-budget production.
Assault on Precinct 13 can be characterized entirely by the first word in its title as the narrative and visual experience all revolved around the idea of violence.
The fact that Assault on Precinct 13 takes such a bleak approach to its violence is another key factor in providing an intense atmosphere. Though it isn't necessarily excessive, Assault on Precinct 13 doesn't hold back with its gun violence or depiction of blood. The most iconic moment in the film comes from when a young girl purchasing an ice cream crosses paths with a gang member who instantly shoots her without flinching or even looking at her. This is a really striking moment, and it is done with such a bleak feeling to it that it still manages to carry shock value over into the modern day. This scene epitomizes the violent content in the film, and it provides a powerful perspective on the nihilism that would become a staple of John Carpenter's later career.
Assault on Precinct 13 is not a film which holds back. With complete creative control, John Carpenter gives the film a story which depicts an endless series of killings perpetrated against both sides of the law. The violence may prove excessive for sensitive viewers, but it's a shock they need to experience. For everyone else, its a fun one. Assault on Precinct 13 is merciless and yet fun at the same time, functioning as a legitimate crime thriller and a great action experience at the same time. The film functions on a legitimate crime narrative level thanks to the power of the atmosphere which John Carpenter wrings out of his small setting with intense action and a powerful soundtrack.
The musical score in Assault on Precinct 13 is nothing short of masterful. Given the incredible time limitations John Carpenter was given to compose it, the fact that he came up with something so atmospheric and groovy yet simply at the same time says a lot about his many talents. I have rarely seen a John Carpenter film where the musical score was not a dominant asset, and Assault on Precinct 13 is an early testament to his long career in achieving this with simple themes. The musical score is a simple beat of synthesizer effects and reverberation which increases the pace of its loops during the more intense scenes while being prolonged during the ones building up to them. As a result, Assault on Precinct 13 is a feature which is rarely short on atmosphere.
When it comes to the action quality of the film, Assault on Precinct 13 is an unforgettable experience. The singular setting of the story provides an ideal confined backdrop to the film which gives audience consistent awareness of the extent of the threat that is being posed on them. With the extensive use of shadow in the setting, the flash of muzzle flares is all the more empowering in the film. And the cinematography consistently uses the visual style of a traditional western as a throwback to John Carpenter's love of Rio Bravo. The shots tend to be long ones where we frequently see both the shooter and the victim getting hit in the long shot, ensuring that there is little reliance on the editing to save things because it is all staged with natural brilliance. Nevertheless, there is still an effective use of faster cuts during some of the really intense moments of the film and it never comes at the expense of the film's natural practicality. The film's use of silence and a subtle musical score makes the gunshots all the more powerful in the claustrophobic context of the story, and the mediated use of blood and gore also helps to intensify the experience with powerful realism. Assault on Precinct 13 is an unforgettable action thriller experience which proves that sensibility and style takes priority over expensive spending when it comes to proper filmmaking, and John Carpenter has proven countless times in the years that succeeded Assault on Precinct 13 just how well he can work on a low budget. The fact that this film stands out as one of his finest films while also having one of the smallest budgets is a real testament to the director's remarkable talents, and it just goes to show how far simplicity can go in the right hands.
And though characterization is no focus of the film, Assault on Precinct 13 nevertheless comes up with some powerful performances.
Austin Stoker makes a powerful lead as Lt. Ethan Bishop. It's unclear whether or not it was intentional that the director cast an African-American in the lead at a time when there were few leading roles for people of such a race in action films that were not Blaxploitation films. But nevertheless, the director manages to provide a strong opportunity to a great actor without bringing race into the subject matter. Austin Stoker doesn't play a black hero, he plays an action hero with a confident edge of intensity and nothing stereotypical about him. He plays the role with a tight grip on his gun and a real professional approach to the situation, focusing solely on fighting to protect everyone around him in the calmest headspace he can. Austin Stoker makes a solid action hero who doesn't rely on racially stereotypical gimmicks but rather on his own genuine nature, and given the time period of the film's production this is clearly progressive. Austin Stoker leads the counterassault with heroism and humanity, assisting the film in its ambitions of realism.
But as anyone can tell you, it's Darwin Joston that steals the screen. There is a certain mystique surrounding the character Napoleon Wilson since he is a cynical anti-hero. He's a convicted killer on death row with a sadistic sense of humour that he puts to use to create an unpredictable nature. The sardonic headspace of the character is darkly comedic and very intimidating as a result; there is no telling if he plans to turn around and murder everyone in his path, and the ambiguous nature of the screenplay keeps this mystery alive while his little-known status as an actor is key to supporting this. He is extremely captivating due to this and the fact that his humour adds a sense of enjoyment to the extremely intense nature of the narrative around him, and the manner in which him and Austin Stoker function seamlessly as a team with the sole drive to survive makes the story more captivating. We see police officer and criminal working together to fight off a common enemy and even sharing a laugh at times. Darwin Joston captures the suave nature of sadistic John Wayne, perfectly grasping the Howard Hawkes influence over Assault on Precinct 13.
Nancy Loomis and Charles Cyphers make for a welcome presence in their first of multiple collaborations with John Carpenter. Martin West supplies an emotionally charged supporting effort, and the presence of Tony Burton from before his fame from the Rocky series (1976-2006) provides nostalgia to the experience.

Assault on Precinct 13 is a perfect example of John Carpenter's mastery of the low-budget film: it uses a simple story as the backdrop for some brilliantly intense action scenes with the support of an effective cast and an awesome musical score.
½ July 22, 2016
"Anybody got a smoke?" Awesome movie
July 13, 2016
Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) C-92m. ???? D: John Carpenter.
Brilliant action film (a remake of John Ford's classic western RIO BRAVO) about mute street gang who attack a small police station. Many memorable vignettes. Warning: extremely violent. The shooting of a little girl earned this an X rating. Chilling score by director Carpenter in his best film. Simply spellbinding.
½ July 4, 2016
Snake Plissken prototype film has a shock-factor worth watching.
July 1, 2016
There's a reason why John Carpenter is called, not only the master of horror, but also the master of cult action films, and I'd says this is definitly one, if not even his best action movie. It's entertaining, nice action scenes and a thrilling situation done in an extremely low budget exploitative manner. The acting is alright for a B movie and most of the characters are pretty likeable. This film prooves once and for all that you don't need a lot of stuff to make a good action film. Recommended !!
June 20, 2016
77/100
For a needlessly precise numerical score- 77/100, or B+
A terrific John Carpenter B-movie that defined and streamlined the siege thriller, wearing the influences of Hawk's Rio Bravo and Romero's Night of the Living Dead loud and proud, while bringing in some welcome touches like Carpenter's framing, slow burn pacing and electronic score. The film works a bit to get all of its various characters in the same place, but once it is does, the set pieces are quite well-executed for the era as the protagonists battle an enormous, faceless multi-cultural gang to the death; Carpenter creates droves of tension through the inevitability and relentlessness of the attackers. Characters are killed with abandon, but the most developed are good ones- Austin Stoker's levelheaded African-American cop, Laurie Zimmer's badass secretary, Darwin Joston's wise-ass death-row prisoner, with his recurrent line "Got a smoke?" An all-together excellent film, and not one cinema fans should ignore, despite its appearance before Halloween in Carpenter's filmography.
April 30, 2016
That score with the seamless tense and dreadful scenes, wow! When it comes to exploitation films, it does not get better than this.
½ April 26, 2016
Un film con budget ridotto che ricorda molto un altro film a basso budget (l'alba dei morti viventi di Romero); la trama quasi identica se non fosse per l'ambientazione.
Nonostante la trama ridotta all'osso, un gruppetto di persone asserragliato in una stazione di polizia, il film scorre bene e mantiene alto l'interesse del pubblico.
½ April 18, 2016
The magnitude of stupidity on display is just unbelievable !

Its not surprising that no criminal in the vicinity fears the law and that precinct 13 police station is being closed down.

The mediocre remake seems like a masterpiece compared to this garbage.
April 5, 2016
Old but good - gripping action with occasional humour
½ February 28, 2016
3.5/5. John Carpenter was put on the map with this taut, economical study of a siege told from the perspective of the skeleton police crew and prison inmates under their care who find themselves under attack by a multitude of bloodthirsty gang members. The B-grade acting is gradually transcended by the charisma of the key players, and the very 1970's humour of the screenplay lifts the film above what could have been simply a violent dirge. The widescreen cinematography is atmospheric, scored with Carpenter's own doom synth progressions which are used minimally but effectively. Many of the beats and rhythms of this now classic siege template were refined in Carpenter's subsequent study of claustrophobic terror in his superb 1982 remake of "the Thing". I was only bothered by the film's misnomer - it's actually the 14th precinct that is attacked in this film!
½ January 25, 2016
An expertly-crafted action-thriller, incorporating the premise of a western with the aesthetics of a horror film, 'Assault on Precinct 13' is but another example of what a brilliant director John Carpenter is. It's a very bold film, both in its content and style, and it shows that Carpenter had a clear vision, and a good one at that.
½ December 27, 2015
Way ahead of its time.
December 5, 2015
First film of the 80s, only to be released in 76. The original and brilliant electronic soundtrack, catches the unique atmopshere in this apocalyptic explotation action. Clean and effective in every aspect. Great role characteristics
October 26, 2015
If your going to do simple, do it right and by god does John Carpenter craft and extremely straight forward but hugely rewarding siege movie that really should not be missed. On the final night of Precinct 13's existence, life should be easy for the captain and his small array of receptionists and officers, should being the highlighted word here as not only is disgraced bad boy, Napoleon Wilson, making a pit stop on his way to death row, but a group of suicidal gang members happen to be on a vicious kill streak, leading them straight towards the doomed Precinct. From the opening drum loop and sexy synth fizzling through our ear drums, Assault On Precinct 13, totally kicks you square in the nether regions, repeatedly, yet you cannot help but plead for more. The films premise is simple, effective and relates to every human beings primal instincts, survival. Yet with such a straight forward premise, Carpenter manages to include a wealth of tremendous characters and intriguing plot points, that will constantly have you second guessing and sitting on the edge of your seat. Austin Stoker and Darwin Jonston are excellent as Bishop and Wilson, an unlikely duo, forced to join forces to defend themselves, Jonston is a brilliant anti hero, he's smug, funny and lovable, even though he is a cop killer, it makes you question your reasoning for liking him and even trusting him, it is however impossible not to adore his screen time here and every moment of it is a sheer joy to watch. Stoker is equally tremendous as Bishop, giving you exactly what you want from a protagonist, in terms of humility and strength but still finds himself fighting an uphill battle. A special mention should also be made for Laurie Zimmer, who blows it out the water as Leigh, a tough and unflinching receptionist, willing to get her hands dirty and stand toe to toe with the worst of them. It really is testament to Carpenter as a director and writer when not only can he work with stellar talent but also write the most soul grabbing characters, ever committed to the horror genre. The setting is perfect, it reeks of violence, scum and unease, houses are boarded up, ice cream vans are stocked with hand guns and the Precinct itself is completely falling to pieces, all of this just adds so much to the experience, there isnt a handy bazooka in the basement, no one is coming to help and the bad guys dont care if they live or die. The film paces itself wonderfully, taking time to establish and build the world without ever feeling forced or unwanted, this means that when the shit does hit the fan, not only have you popped 4 valium in aid to help your shredded nerves but you give a shit about everyone in this film, christ even the gangs motives are understandable, making the lines blur even more, add in a masterful soundtrack and the film just oozes style, atmosphere and terror. Assault On Precinct 13 could be the most essential siege movie ever made, tense, barbaric and at times hilarious, it offers up a huge package of content, it's simple, effective and just brilliant, a must own.
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