This remake of John Carpenter’s 1976 film would’ve had to do something very special in order to come close to the innovation and originality of its source material. Unsurprisingly, the new version is absolutely average and ultimately empty.
Following the pattern set by the recent Dawn of the Dead remake, producers chose an up-and-coming director to helm a cult classic re-imagining. However, unlike Dawn, this director fails miserably.
The film begins promisingly, with an interesting drug sting, but quickly devolves into cliché and formula. The cast, with talented actors such as Laurence Fishburne and Gabriel Byrne, is wasted on a weak script. Ethan Hawke tries to act haunted and tortured but simply comes off as whinging. The only interesting performance comes from John Leguizamo as a strung-out, conspiracy-spouting junkie (an albeit familiar character). Laurence Fishburne seems lost, essentially playing an urban Morpheus. If he isn’t careful he’ll slide into Jack Nicholson territory, simply playing himself in role after role.
The visual style of the film is too obvious, too flashy. Some of the camerawork used is disorienting and unnecessary, including an expensive CGI zoom out that draws far too much attention to itself. There is one interesting sequence however, though it’s far too short: a quick three-shot track right, showing the criminals paired off with the cops.
The inclusion of hard motives and complex motivations ironically seems to detract from the film. The original version was so interesting because of the seemingly random nature of the siege, almost as if it were a group of mindless animals attacking rather than a vicious gang. Normally adding deeper characterisations enhances a film, but here it seems forced and out of place. Is this film a drama or an action/thriller? The director doesn’t seem to know.
Assault on Precinct 13 had great potential, but ultimately became just another muddled actioner from Hollywood.