I wasn’t planning on doing another one of these again so soon, but it’s New Year’s Eve so what better movie to bring up than Assault on Precinct 13?
Assault on Precinct 13 is a remake of the 1976 John Carpenter movie of the same name, which in turn is an adaptation of Rio Bravo from 1959. It also has elements of George Romero’s classic horror movie, Night of the Living Dead. That explains why all the criminals are voiceless and act almost mindless. Anyway, we’re not here to talk about the original. Most notably because it takes place in California, and not Michigan.
The remake of Assault on Precinct 13 is exactly what I always want out of a remake. Stop remaking great movies. Instead, remake bad movies into good movies. Someday, I’ll finally get that remake of Hell Comes to Frogtown.
I’m not much of a fan of the original. John Carpenter is kind of hit and miss for me like that.
It’s not a perfect remake, but I find it much better than the original. This was one of those rare times that I saw the remake first. I enjoyed the movie and so I sought out the original, having high hopes as usually the original is better. I was disappointed.
Assault on Precinct 13 came out in 2005 and takes place in Detroit at a police precinct that’s being decommissioned. Imagine that, a building in Detroit that’s about to be left empty? All of a sudden this movie became a documentary. From here the movie deviates from the original in almost every way.
I don’t want to keep bringing up the original, but in that the criminals keep coming in waves like in a video game. There is no reason for it. In the remake, the antagonists have a sense of urgency and the actors have actual roles in the proceedings to play out.
After being part of a failed undercover operation, Sergeant Jake Roenick (Ethan Hawke) is a desk Sergeant at Precinct 13. During the opening scene, Roenick uses the name “Napoleon” while undercover. This is a nod to the original movie. Napoleon Wilson (Darwin Johnson) is the name of the main criminal antagonist.
Apparently, Mark Wahlberg was first offered the role of Roenick but turned it down. Four Brothers came out that same year and that might be why he turned it down. Hawke was a fine enough replacement I guess. He’s an OK actor, but mostly forgettable for me. I’ve never been excited to hear about the next Ethan Hawke project coming out.
He’s just running out the clock and waiting for the change over to a new precinct to happen. Because they’re shutting down and it’s New Year’s Eve, there’s only a handful of people working the late shift. This includes a couple of cops and a secretary. Also Psychiatrist Alexandra Sabian (Maria Bello) shows up to evaluate Roenick’s fitness for duty. One of the officers leftover is Jasper O’Shea, played by the late great Brian Dennehy. One of the greatest character actors of our time.
Elsewhere in the once great city of Detroit, a major crime lord, Marion Bishop (Laurence Fishburne) is being arrested. The name Bishop is another nod to the original movie. It was the last name of the main officer, Lieutenant Ethan Bishop (Austin Stoker). Wait a minute, the character’s first name is Ethan? Like Ethan Hawke? Layers!
While that’s all happening, the snow is hitting hard and roads are getting closed off. What is this, Texas? They take Bishop to Precinct 13 to wait out the snow storm. There’s a few other criminals that tag a long, played by John Leguizamo and Ja Rule. Leguizamo is a decent actor and he’s fine in this, but… lets just forget about Ja Rule. More like Ja Who? It’s after this that the assault begins.
Unlike the original, where the assault was done by basically mindless zombies, this time it’s a well organized tactical team. They have laser sights and everything. It’s headed up by Marcus Duvall (Gabriel Byrne) and everyone held up inside Precinct 13 quickly realizes they’re up against an army that’ll stop at nothing to get what they came for.
The cops look to the reluctant Roenick to take the lead. Meanwhile the crooks look to Bishop for an angle. However, the two groups will have to learn to work together in order to survive the night.
The movie was filmed mostly on location in Detroit, but with some additional filming in Ontario, Canada as well. Michigan over the past decade or so has become a kind of go-to for filming movies. When shooting in Detroit, it’s usually for the broke down buildings and homes. The ghettos are a ready-made, perfect spot for filming criminal activity. RoboCop was a head of it’s time.
Assault on Precinct 13 wasn’t considered a success at the box office. It was put together on a $30 million budget and in total brought in just $35 million. That’s including foreign. It also had mixed reviews. It will never win any awards, but it deserved better. If you’re looking for an action movie to watch for New Year’s Eve, it’s not a bad choice.