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Assault on Precinct 13 (15)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Armed and Dangerous – weapon specialist reveals how he matched gun to character. Behind Precinct Walls – how the precinct building was constructed from concept to computer to screen. Plan of Attack – stunt coordinator. Deleted scenes.

FROM the outset, you shouldn't really expect too much from Assault on Precinct 13, a remake of a cult classic that was in itself inspired by the western, Rio Bravo.

Jean-François Richet's contemporary update therefore brings nothing new to the genre, save for a high-quality ensemble cast and far more impressive artillery.

What it does do, however, is serve as a suitably claustrophobic potboiler, heavy on attitude, but with enough street savvy about it to ensure that viewers will be kept on the edge of their seat.

Much of this is due to the cast, of course, which includes the ever-excellent Laurence Fishburne and Ethan Hawke, but Richet must take some credit, too, for maintaining the hard-as-nails tone to the bitter end.

This isn't a botched remake; far from it. Rather, it is a tense, exciting and frequently surprising thriller that provides a gutsy night out for any fan of the genre despite being restrained by a fairly tight concept.

Fishburne is drugs kingpin and cop killer, Marion Bishop, who is being detained at the virtually derelict precinct 13 during a snow storm on the night before he is due to give evidence that could put the dirty cops he deals with away (including Gabriel Byrne's cold-blooded leader).

Surrounded with Bishop is burnt-out cop, Roenick (Hawke), a police officer still haunted by his failure to save two colleagues during a botched bust, who resolves to use the night to put his career back on track.

Together with Bishop's fellow inmates (including John Leguizamo's irritating junkie) and his own makeshift officers (including Brian Dennehy's retiree, Maria Bello's psychiatrist and Drea de Matteo's nymphomaniac secretary), Roenick resolves to make a stand against the corrupt cops who will stop at nothing to protect their own careers.

The ensuing stand-off is less action-based than John Carpenter's cult version, preferring to build on atmosphere rather than body count.

And as a result, he doesn't squander the talents of his cast, throwing in plenty of personality clashes and in-house stand-offs that serve to heighten the precarious nature of Roenick's predicament.

When the action does come, it is swift, brutal and unflinching, as well as completely random, so as to create a sense of jeopardy for every character.

Hawke and Fishburne also make engaging opposites (one vulnerable, the other icily intense), so much so that their love-hate relationship conjurs memories of the partnership between Hawke and Denzel Washington in Training Day (both films were produced by the same people).

The only major flaw being Byrne's somewhat under-written villain and the odd plot-hole.

As previously stated, however, if you don't go in expecting too much then the rewards are plenty, given that this is an intelligent shoot-em-up that rates as one of the more worthwhile remakes of recent years.

It comes highly recommended.

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