Assault on Precinct 13 is a remake of the 1976 John Carpenter classic (which is remake of the Howards Hawks western Rio Bravo). The plot scenario is something we’ve all seen before. Our heroes are holed up in an indoor arena (in this case, a precinct), trying to keep the outside forces at bay. In this case, the hero is Jake Roenick (played by Ethan Hawke). On New Year’s Eve, and with the closing of the precinct looming, crimelord Bishop (played by Laurence Fishburne)is dumped off at the office. A s…owstorm has forced the criminals here. Meanwhile, Bishop’s men try to bust him out, hence the assault. As we all know, hell will break loose.
Assault sports an excellent cast. The always engaging Mario Bello plays a psychiatrist caught up in the seige. Soprano‘s star Drea De Matteo is along for the ride as a sexy secretary, crusty Brian Dennehy is crusty Brian Dennehy, and Ja Rule and John Leguizamo round out the other baddie detainees. The success of the film, however, can mostly be attributed to the slick and taut direction of Frenchman Jean-Francoise Rinet. The film moves along at a stylish pace. Despite lacking in the Carpenter moral ambiguity, and the synth score, this Assault on Precinct 13 is a solid, modern action movie for the 21st century.
This film can be watched in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround or DTS. Either way, this audio mix is an “assault” on your stereo system. Lots of directionality on rear speakers, and those explosions will shake your walls. Dialogue is clear and clean. If you are French, lucky you. You can listen to a French Dolby 5.1 Surround mix. This is an excellent audio mix, which really puts you inside Precinct 13. Well done.
The video transfer, while excellent, is not as good as the audio. Seen in widescreen 2.40:1, the transfer has a lot going for it. There’s a lot of night in the movie, so it’s important that the blacks are solid. No worries. They are. Slight grain appears from time to time, but it’s not predominant. Edge enhancement is distracting from time to time. But this is a transfer that suits the movie really well: dark and shadowy.
There is an audio commentary from the director, Richet, the writer, James DeMonaco, and the producer, Jeffrey Silver. The trio make for an entertaining listen. Topics of discussion include “why remake this film”, “how we made this film different”, as well as technical and performer info. An easy two hour commentary to listen to.
There are 5 minutes or so of deleted scenes. These scenes can be watched with or without director commentary. Richet has good reasoning behind his scene deletions. Something to learn from.
The rest of the special features are featurettes. Armed and Dangerous, The Assault Team, Behind Precinct Walls, and Plan of Attack all deal with different aspects of the production. Weapons, set design, fight choreography, and stunt work are subjects addressed with these featurettes. The major featurette, however, is called Caught in the Crosshairs. This is the “standard” making of featurette. Cast members and filmmakers are interviewed about their experiences working on the film. Props are also given to the John Carpenter original.
While not as “original” as the John Carpenter film (or the Hawks western, for that matter), this incarnation of Assault on Precinct 13 stands on its own. Unlike many recent remakes, where one cries out the word “Whyyyy”, this movie is a slicky made piece of action. With excellent video, audio, and a nice assortment of extras, Assault makes for enjoyable night in your home theatre room.
Special Features List
- Audio commentary
- Deleted Scenes
- “Caught in the Crosshairs” featurette
- “The Assault Team” featurette
- “Armed and Dangerous” featurette
- “Plan of Attack” featurette
- “Behind Precinct Walls” featurette