Friday, July 01, 2005

Assault on Precinct 13 (the remake)

This movie confirms 3 things:

  1. Maria Bello is hot
  2. Hollywood will remake an obscure B movie from the mid-70s long before they create any original new content.
  3. In spite of (2), remaking John Carpenter flicks can yield something pretty good.

I do NOT agree with the main comment on IDMB about this movie ( It is not a typical action film. Whoever made this movie understands what Carpenter is about, and has remade this movie true to the spirit of his films.

Granted, I actually haven't seen the original "Precinct 13," which is shocking considering I'm probably Carpenter's biggest fan ever. This movie sounds pretty different than the original. However, as I've often said, "John Carpenter is the last working man's director in Hollywood," and it appears the creators of this remake understand him. Carpenter loves to blur the lines between people and things society has demonized (mostly drugs) vs. what we should consider truly evil -- things like oppressive authorities and random psycho killers (symbolizing totalitarians, of course). The junkie with a gun becomes your best friend when Michael Myers is outside the door trying to kill you, for example. That's the genius of Carpenter.

Rest assured, I'll be waxing poetic about Carpenter on this blog a lot in the future, so let's get to this movie.

It's very well done. When Precinct 13 comes under siege, the cops inside have to join forces with their prisoners to fight them off. I was pretty surprised at the amount of violence shown in this movie. I know that sounds weird, but I was expecting mild A-Team type violence. Instead of just seeing the end of a gun barrel or a shot and a person drop out of frame, we see a lot of execution-style shootings. Though pretty much everyone who gets shot and killed gets a single shot in the middle of the forehead, which is kind of the milder way to tell you "They are dead." One thing they do to try to reduce the feeling of violence is put the guys perpetrating the siege in combat uniforms with helmets and masks. It's a bit less human to see those guys get shot.

Missing from this remake is that Carpenter Trademarked feeling of desolation. If you've ever seen "The Thing", you know what I'm talking about. But he also has achieved this feeling in the middle of cities, like in "Prince of Darkness"... a church in the middle of Los Angeles! While the snowstorm in this movie really helps give you that feeling, the filmmakers felt the need to add visual effects (a long pullback from the remote Precinct to show it alone in the snowstorm) to reinforce a feeling of desolation that just comes naturally to Carpenter.

They got a pretty good number of recognizable actors in this. Though I'm not sure how people can take Ethan Hawke very seriously as a cop that has a depression and drug problem. I do like Maria Bello (obviously) as the very OCD police shrink. Gabriel Byrne plays his typical brooding Usual Suspects-like character. Ja Rule is pretty good and John Leguizamo is at his least annoying. Larry Fishburne--sorry, LAURENCE--steals the show as the arch-criminal Marion Bishop.

My rating: if you like action movies that have a bunch of misfits ganging together to fight the oppressive authority during a snowstorm in Detroit -- which I like very much -- then it's definitely worth a look on DVD or PPV.

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