Assault on Precinct 13 Reviews
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.