Assault on Precinct 13
I remember this film from the John Carpenter original, and I really couldn't see it being remade. The cast was a mixed bag for me but the presence of Gabriel Byrne, Laurence Fishburne and Brian Dennehy I was drawn to it, just to see if it could live up to the original. Yet names such as Ja Rule screamed back at me not to sully the memory of Carpenter's movie.
I went ahead anyway, and my, how I was surprised.
The opening moments of the film suggest that this is going to be a bit tougher than the average action thriller, although the whole early setup for the main character is a little too stock, taken straight out of the troubled cop filing cabinet.
Still as soon as we enter the present day and meet Fishburne and Byrne, the play is set and we race onto the Precinct itself where all the action is set to take place. Well, almost all.
If we ignore the stock character setup for Hawke, then the film does a good job of introducing all the characters without presenting us with a line up, and we get to see some subtle dynamics between them as well as firmly identifying what side each is on.
Throughout the introductions we can hear strains of Carpenter style electric soundtrack, whether this is intentional or not I'm not sure, but it does highlight something. This film has been made with a lot of reverence for the original, and it shows.
The locations are dark with a cramped and isolated feel to them. This gives us a great tone and mood for the film, which is very well photographed. The camera keeps moving and at times presents us with some stylised shots and unusual camera angles. There are some very good action sequences and it never goes over the top, keeping it very realistic, especially from the attacking Police teams.
Byrne is unfortunately in short supply in this film, although we get to see a lot of Dennehy, Fishburne, John Leguizamo, Maria Bello, and a strong performance from Ethan Hawke as the officer in charge of Precinct 13. He's natural and gives a convincing performance as a tormented cop.
There are a few surprising non-Hollywood plot turns, some moments that genuinely surprised me, however that didn't last all the way through the movie. The final sequence flips in and out of standard Hollywood fare which does leave a slightly bad taste in the mouth afterwards. What I want to know is where the forest suddenly appeared from, and why did they feel the need to tack on a nice Die Hard type wrap up to the story? Here it is tired and needless, giving nothing more to the story than we had during the previous scene.
Presented: 1.85:1 Anamorphic
There's a strong picture throughout the film which is for the most part dark. There are a few flash points and the DVD manages to cope through these scenes and keeps its levels black. The forest scenes at the end also show a great understanding of lighting which has remained strong on the transfer.
Presented: Dolby Digital 5.1
Excellent audio from the beginning with gunshots firing around you with a nice level of bass, this continues through all the action scenes in the film. There are also noticeable background noise effects throughout, particularly with the storm as you hear the wind passing behind and around you.
Very poor indeed. There is another version of this DVD for sale with quite a few extras, but to offer this limited version for rental doesn't inspire me to rush out and buy it.
This film is more than your average action movie and I'm surprised more wasn't made of this at release, however there are flaws, particularly with the very beginning and very end, both of which felt very Hollywood stock. It has some very well filmed scenes and choreographed action, and the impressive casting provides good performances, in Hawke's and Bello's case, quite strong.
However the DVD version is quite disappointing, bearing nothing more than the option to watch with subtitles. So although it compares very favourably with the original, provides good action entertainment and manages to push away from Hollywood stereotypes for the most part, the lack of extras does let this DVD down. I would recommend the film however.