"Claustrophobic Police Standoff, but They’re the Bad Guys"
ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 has some good twists and a taut pace, but its deluge of gory violence and paranoia wears down the audience and makes for a tedious, nerve-wracking experience. The movie is a two-hour long police standoff, but the police turn out to be the bad guys.
ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 is a remake of an early movie by John Carpenter, who directed HALLOWEEN and ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK. Carpenter’s movie was itself based on two classic John Wayne westerns directed by veteran filmmaker Howard Hawks, RIO BRAVO and EL DORADO. The new movie has some good twists and a taut pace, but its deluge of violence and paranoia wears down the audience, making for a tedious, nerve-wracking experience.
Ethan Hawke plays Sgt. Roenick. After an undercover operation was botched, Roenick volunteered to be stationed at a desk. Now he abuses prescription drugs and avoids trouble. Laurence Fishburne plays local crime boss Marion Bishop, who murdered a cop but finally got caught. On a snowy New Year’s Eve, their paths reluctantly cross. As Bishop is detained in a jail with only two cops and a desk clerk staffing it, masked men surround the precinct and try to break into the jail.
Roenick and the others assume that Bishop’s underlings are trying to break him out of jail. As explained some of the trailers to the movie, what Roenick discovers is that there is a conspiracy of police officers who want to kill Bishop so that he does not expose their corrupt deal.
To be clear, the bad guys in this movie are the Chicago police force. They are corrupt, sneaky and murderous. Like so many suspense movies over the past few years, the cops are bad guys, and the bad guy – in this case, the crime boss, Bishop – is the movie’s hero. Such plotlines only harden anti-authoritarian sentiment. It’s true that Sgt. Roenick stands firm to fulfill his duty, becoming an example of a determined, honest officer, but he is the only one.
This is, of course, different from John Carpenter’s movie, where the policemen inside the jail must team up with the prisoners in the jail to hold off and escape from a murderous flock of gang members. It is even more different from the two John Wayne movies, where John Wayne plays a lawman holding off a gang of gunfighters hired by an evil rancher who are trying to free the rancher’s evil brother in the case of RIO BRAVO and trying to free the rancher himself in the case of EL DORADO. Because the new ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 completely distorts the pro-American, traditional plots of the John Wayne westerns, it probably will not build the kind of business at the box office that’s necessary to sustain a thriller these days.
Constant violence also makes the new movie difficult to watch. Eventually, the blood and gore will tire even the most jaded viewer. Drea de Matteo’s character awkwardly engages in some repugnant sexual banter at the movie’s beginning, with a quick reprise at the halfway mark, but these sections are thankfully brief.
The plot twists in ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 escalate the tension, which never really lets up. Depending on your state of mind, that tension can be very exciting or headache inducing. PRECINCT 13 is pretty good at keeping audiences guessing, which is an accomplishment in the well-worn police thriller genre. Even so, the movie’s claustrophobic feeling and relentless violence prevent it from being fully entertaining.
(PaPa, PC, Ro, B, LLL, VVV, S, AA, DD, MM) Depressed pagan worldview with cruel violence and a politically correct, anti-authoritarian message reflecting a Romantic worldview where society is corrupt, but some imperative toward moral behavior; 121 heavy obscenities, about half of them ‘f’ words, plus 16 strong profanities; gory violence includes dozens of people shot, some in the head, point-blank shootings, man stabbed in eye, car wreck, struggles, and explosions; lewd sexual discussion in the movie’s first 10 minutes; lots of alcohol consumed on New Year’s Eve; smoking and character abuses prescription drugs; and, extensive lying, police corruption, betrayal, and stealing.
ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 has some good twists and a taut pace, but its deluge of violence and paranoia wears down the audience and makes for a tedious, nerve-wracking experience. Ethan Hawke plays a sergeant who used to be an undercover cop until an operation went bad. Now, he abuses prescription drugs and avoids trouble. Laurence Fishburne is local crime boss Marion Bishop, who murdered a cop but finally got caught. As Bishop is detained in a jail with only two cops and a desk clerk staffing it, masked men surround the precinct and try to break in.
The bad guys in this movie are the Chicago police force. They are corrupt, sneaky and murderous. The movie’s hero is the bad guy, Bishop. Such evil plotlines only harden anti-authoritarian sentiment. Constant violence makes the movie difficult to watch, and there are over 120 obscenities. There is some repugnant sexual banter at the beginning, but that section is thankfully brief. The many plot twists escalate the tension, which never really lets up, and PRECINCT 13 is good at keeping moviegoers guessing. Even so, the movie’s claustrophobic feeling and relentless violence prevent it from being fully entertaining.