Blu-ray and DVD Reviews

Assault on Precinct 13

Reviewed by: Scott Chitwood
Movie Rating:
7 out of 10
Extras Rating:
7 out of 10
Movie Details:
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Rating: R

Starring:
Ethan Hawke as Jake Roenick
Laurence Fishburne as Marion Bishop
Maria Bello as Alex Sabian
John Leguizamo as Beck
Drea de Matteo as Iris Ferry
Gabriel Byrne as Marcus Duvall
Brian Dennehy as Jasper O'Shea
Ja Rule as Smiley
Aisha Hinds as Anna

Special Features:
Deleted Scenes

"Plan of Attack" stunt featurette

"Armed & Dangerous" weapons featurette

"Behind Precinct Walls" production featurette

"The Assault Team" making of featurette

HBO First Look: Caught in the Crosshairs

Other Info:
Widescreen (2.40:1)
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
DTS 5.1 Surround Sound
French Languages
French and Spanish Subtitles
Running Time: 1 Hour 49 Minutes

Synopsis:
The following is the official description of Assault on Precinct 13:

"To survive the night, cops and criminals alike will have to unite and fight. A classic head-to-head showdown ignites in an all-new update of the 1976 action thriller of the same name. With only a few hours left in the calendar year, Precinct 13, one of Detroit's oldest precinct houses, is closing. Amid heavy snowfall and unsafe road conditions, only a few lawmen remain on duty for New Year's Eve. They are headed by Sergeant Jake Roenick (Ethan Hawke), a good cop wrestling with bad memories of a fatal undercover op from the previous spring. Roenick and Precinct 13 have both seen better days. Early on December 31st, deep in the city, formidable crime lord Marion Bishop (Laurence Fishburne), is cornered by an undercover cop. Their ensuing struggle leaves the cop dead - and Bishop captured, by the Organized Crime and Racketeering squad that Marcus Duvall (Gabriel Byrne) runs. Bishop is handcuffed and herded onto a prison bus with several criminals: junkie Beck (John Leguizamo), hustler Smiley (Ja Rule), and gang member Anna (Aisha Hinds). But the battering snowstorm stops the bus well short of its high-security destination and strands it at the remote Precinct 13 - where, as night falls, the prisoners are temporarily incarcerated. This influx of prisoners irks Roenick, almost as much as visiting police psychologist Alex Sabian (Maria Bello) does. But Precinct 13's provocative secretary Iris Ferri (Drea de Matteo) and salty veteran cop Jasper "Old School" O'Shea (Brian Dennehy) won't let the increasing workload deter them from celebrating...until two masked gunmen break in and attack the guards from the bus. The gunmen are just barely beaten back, and everyone inside Precinct 13 realizes that more will come - to extract crime lord Bishop, but also armed and ready to shoot anyone and everyone else. The cops, looking to the reluctant Roenick for leadership, and the cons, looking to the steely Bishop for an angle, must join forces to live. Fortifying themselves with minimal weaponry and maximum courage, they will not go gently into the bad night. As they fight to the death, the thin lines between good and bad bleed together."

Assault on Precinct 13 is rated for strong violence and language throughout, and for some drug content.

The Movie:
Ruthless and cool kingpin Marion Bishop (Laurence Fishburne) has finally been caught and is spending a snowy New Year's Eve night under the eye of Jake Roenick (Ethan Hawke) in the all but abandoned Precinct 13. Unfortunately, Marion can incriminate corrupt cop Marcus Duvall (Gabriel Byrne) and by insinuation most of the Detroit police department, and must therefore be silenced at all costs.

Assault on Precinct 13 takes its time setting up the characters and their situation, and the first third is the weakest. It's filled with stock characters in stock situations and drags considerably. Roenick is an ex-undercover officer who's burnt out after an operation went bad. Alex Sabian (Maria Bello) is his shrink, who acts tough and all knowing, but doesn't really understand the pressure Roenick's job has put him through. That sort of thing. Each character gets a tick to differentiate them, but that's about as deep as the filmmakers go.

With the exception of Roenick's introduction the film mostly sputters along until the lights go out in the station. When the corrupt cops do attack in force Assault on Precinct 13 finally comes to life and never stops again. As it moves along it rises above its rote beginnings to become engaging and entertaining.

In order to survive the cops inside the station must arm the criminals, and the characters take turns dealing with the threat on the outside and the potential threat inside as the tension builds. This leaves the villains mostly as blank slates, but they are not really missed.

Make no mistake, Assault on Precinct 13 is an action movie, not a thriller. It delves into character conflict and tightens screws, but only until the bullets start flying again. For the most part it plays predictable and reliable moments with just enough left turns to still be fresh and interesting. It's often darkly funny as well.

Fishburne and Hawke are the best things about the film, particularly Fishburne who is ice-cube cool from his first scene to his last. Every moment he's on screen is fun. Hawke's intro is excellent, but he spends the next half-hour wallowing in standard burnt-out cop self-pity until the shooting starts. From there on in he's engaging and fun and he and Fishburne have a great rapport. Still, it would be interesting if one of these films didn't have a main character who's burnt-out or on-the-edge. That's what makes Fishburne's Bishop so entertaining. He knows what he is and he has no qualms about it. He just does what he has to do.

Assault on Precinct 13 is fun, engaging, and a little clichéd, but amongst the recent crop of bland PG-13 action movies for the whole family, it stands tall as an example of how to do an action movie right.

The Extras:
There are a few bonus features included on this DVD:

Deleted Scenes – One deleted scene features Ethan Hawke as Jake Roenick reading his psychological profile, then throwing it across the room. Another scene shows more of Laurence Fishburne as Marion Bishop flirting with Drea de Matteo as Iris Ferry. A third deleted scene has Maria Bello as Alex Sabian fainting in the arms of Ja Rule who plays Smiley. There's also a little more of Brian Dennehy as Jasper O'Shea harassing Fishburse as well as Gabriel Byrne as Marcus Duvall killing his burned fellow cop. None of the scenes are outstanding, but there are enough to make them worth checking out.

"Plan of Attack" stunt featurette – As the title says, this featurette details the stunts of the film. You see guys on fire, car stunts, and more.

"Armed & Dangerous" weapons featurette – This featurette highlights the weapons such as the tommy gun, the machine guns, the pistols, and other cool stuff.

"Behind Precinct Walls" production featurette – This is a detailed look at the Precinct set created for the film.

"The Assault Team" making of featurette – The cast of the film, as well as the crew, are highlighted here.

HBO First Look: Caught in the Crosshairs – This is your standard "Behind the Scenes" video. It details the plot of the film, features interviews with the cast and crew, and generally hypes the movie you've already seen.

The Bottom Line:
Assault on Precinct 13 is a solid action film with a great cast. It's well worth checking out.

Order this DVD @ Amazon

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