Assault on Precinct 13


Action / Crime / Thriller


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September 30, 2013 at 12:34 PM



Kim Richards as Kathy
John Carpenter as Gang Member
Tony Burton as Wells
Henry Brandon as Chaney
720p 1080p
704.44 MB
23.976 fps
1hr 31 min
P/S 2 / 7
1.43 GB
23.976 fps
1hr 31 min
P/S 1 / 16

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by Brandt Sponseller 10 / 10

Violent and witty

Set in gang-riddled Los Angeles in the 1970s, director John Carpenter was inspired to make a film that was basically a combination of Rio Bravo (1959) and Night of the Living Dead (1968) with rookie cop Ethan Bishop in John Wayne's Rio Bravo role/Duane Jones' Ben, a recently vacated police precinct as the small town jail/farmhouse, and with gang members in place of Night of the Living Dead's zombies/Nathan Burdette's men.

For some viewers, that premise alone may be enough for them to not be able to grant this film a 10, but Assault on Precinct 13 is yet another example of why quality isn't correlated to having unprecedented ideas.

One of the first striking things about Assault on Precinct 13 is that it looks beautiful. It was made on a relatively low budget, and it looks like a large percentage of the money must have gone into camera rental, film stock and film processing. Douglas Knapp's color cinematography is crisp, innovative (I just love the shot with the camera mounted in front of the car headlight, with the sunset in the background) and marvelously portrays Los Angeles as a gritty, suburban wasteland as well, if not better, than any other film I can think of. What makes it effective isn't over-the-top, run down buildings and heavily populated streets, but vast, wide-open spaces, with squat, nondescript houses and buildings, all fading into nothingness. Knapp even manages to make the streets look like this, and a couple scenes are set in what is effectively a sand-logged desert, with a lonely, dangerous phone booth sitting in isolation. The police station also reflects the suburban wasteland look in terms of its spaces and their relationship to each other, its sparseness and its colors.

The low budget nature of the film forced a very successful straightforward, brutal and realistic approach to the action, especially the violence. Carpenter, on his commentary track on the DVD, notes that some scenes weren't as he would have liked because they didn't have the coverage they needed, and had to let them play out, longer than normal, from a single angle. Thank the heavens for a lack of time and funding! Despite the over-the-top mayhem in subsequent action films by other directors, the impact of many of the scenes in this film cannot be topped, and it's often because of the unusual, almost documentary-like feel of the film.

Also adding to the effect is Carpenter's score. Although it's technically primitive, it's just as good as any of his other music, and Carpenter is as talented as a film composer as he is as a director. His use of motifs, often in an almost trance-like repetition, is similar too, and just as effective as, both Bernard Herrmann and Ennio Morricone.

The performances are all excellent, and the staging is even better. If you know anything about the premise of the film before you begin watching it for the first time, you may have difficulty figuring out how they're going to pull off the central situation of the film. The logistics seem to be against creating a prolonged tense situation. Carpenter and company create the perfect scenario with just a couple ingenious moves, and the unending threat, combined with the unusual pacing of the zombie-like menace make Assault on Precinct 13 as frightening as any horror film could be.

Reviewed by dee.reid 10 / 10

Neat thriller from John `Claustrophobia' Carpenter

With the release of the 2005 remake of John Carpenter's classic action film, "Assault on Precinct 13," rapidly approaching, I took a chance and managed to purchase the last DVD copy of the special edition at my local video store and I must say that Carpenter's second directorial feature ranks amongst some of the director's finest work.

The first film by Carpenter that I really liked was "The Thing" (1982), because it utilized its claustrophobic setting and escalating tension by focusing on the paranoia of the characters rather than splattering the screen with pointless action.

"Assault on Precinct 13" has much in common with "The Thing" in this sense, the mounting tension and fears between the characters, which of course help to further the plot and heighten a slight emotional attachment to the leads.

I'll say that Carpenter's film is a perfect example of what's wrong with a lot of movies today, and how Hollywood has grown less skillful and daring over the years. For those that don't know what I mean, just watch the scene in "Precinct" with the "wrong-flavored ice cream" to get an idea of just HOW far Carpenter was willing to go with this picture.

Though the primary setting for the action in this movie takes place at the abandoned police station in Precinct 9, Division 13, it opens with the shooting deaths of six Los Angeles gang members by the police. News breaks on random radio stations inform the audience that a large cache of weapons was stolen from a facility and the police are overworked with the rapid rise in crime over the last 24 hours.

The camera then centers on four sinister-looking individuals in their living room, weapons and ammo boxes strewn about, they each sit, like warlords at a tribal counsel, plotting what evil deeds they're about to unleash. They then enter into a blood oath, to the death, but for what is largely unknown.

Across town, Bishop (Austin Stoker), the newly promoted lieutenant, is on his way to work for his first assignment and is ordered to head over to Precinct 9, where there are only a few people working. Already many of the supplies and ammunition have been moved across town to the new police station, which is located far away.

At a local jail across town, Nathaniel Wilson (Darwin Joston) is on his way to prison to face the death penalty for several murders, of which the nature is presumably extreme since he's being put to death. We know it had to be something horrific, since he informs one of the officers supervising him that a preacher once told him that he had seen death in his eyes.

It would seem that fate, or the "Street Thunder," the largest, most powerful and deadliest gang in Los Angeles, brings them all together at Precinct 9, where the few police officers on duty and a few convicts are forced to make a stand, as the murderous gang members lay siege to the police station with heavy-weapons fire.

Carpenter's second feature is heavy on wall-to-wall action and vicious violence, but surprisingly there's a strong center about the characters and the dire situation they're trapped in. Only a handful of people remain in the police station to ward off the seemingly hundreds of faceless, murderous gang members that want into the place, and aren't afraid to die in the process.

Carpenter owed a lot to the apparent source material, "Rio Bravo," which had a similar plot about everyday people who are forced to make not-so-everyday decisions when they become trapped in a nightmarish situation with some very upset people looking for their blood.

I can only hope that the remake of this 1976 action classic is as bold and daring as its predecessor, or we'll have one hell of a flop on our hands.


Reviewed by MovieAddict2014 5 / 10

Awesome Assault

John Carpenter is one of few directors who can successfully transform their movies into giant roller coaster rides without insulting the audience. James Cameron does this, sometimes, but usually adds more plot to his stories. Carpenter just takes simple premises, throws some characters together, and lets everything evolve and unwind on their own. "Assault on Precinct 13" deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as "Dawn of the Dead," or perhaps the overrated "Texas Chainsaw Massacre," as a very low-budget horror/thriller that takes a cast of unknowns, places them together, doesn't really delve into their backgrounds, but lets everything just work itself out like clockwork. There's an eager new cop, an infamous death row murderer, and a relocating precinct, all stuffed together into a movie about a vicious gang assault. It's brilliant in a very subtle way; a sign of things to come for a director who has implemented some of the most oft-used camera tricks in the horror world.

He pioneered the first-person killer perspective in "Halloween" - an effect sorely missed on full screen TV and VHS versions, to once again be savored on the wide screen DVD presentation. Carpenter received quite a number of critical jabs in 1978 for his use of the POV technique, explained to be too voyeuristic and potentially dangerous to be shown in a mainstream motion picture. Hitchcock used the POV technique very subtly in "Psycho's" famous shower sequence, but in "Halloween" it was far blunter, resulting in an uproar of moral complaints.

No matter. "Halloween" became movie horror legend, casting a spell over its viewers, inspiring major knock-offs such as the "Friday the 13th" series (which has overall made more money than the "Halloween" franchise due to more sequels than "Police Academy").

"Assault on Precinct 13" was one of Carpenter's very first efforts at directing. It shows. The movie is flawed, imperfect, both technically and otherwise (some of the dialogue in particular could have used fixing, and the acting is nothing incredible by any means). But it still has an addictive sense of urgency and frantic pacing that makes the movie feel like one long, non-stop, brutal assault - even though the setup for the film takes over forty minutes. It may not be a flawless film but it is one of my favorites.

It's about a new cop named Bishop (Austin Stoker) who is put in charge of a transferring L.A. police precinct - number thirteen. As equipment is carried out of the building and last-minute closings are made, far away a bus load of convicts, including notorious murderer Wilson (Darwin Joston), decide to stop at precinct 13 due to the fact that one of the criminals seems to be coming down with a harsh cough. And downtown, a young girl is shot by a ruthless gang member. Her father shoots the killer, and then flees to precinct thirteen, hunted by the gang members, who eventually begin to siege the precinct in a suicide raid. Trapped with two killers, a few cops and a jail warden, Bishop and company try to think of a way out of the place without getting shot by the vicious gang outside.

That's basically it - people stuck inside a police station trying to get out without dying in the process. The movie is only ninety minutes long, give or take, which is a good thing, because if it had been any longer it might have lost some of its pacing and become tiring. Instead, there isn't a single scene in "Assault on Precinct 13" that I think should have been cut. I'm sure there are some that could have been tossed onto the editing room floor, but I'm glad that the movie is the way it is - it flows smoothly and we don't ever feel like a scene has gone on too long or too short. In that sense, it's just about perfect.

Carpenter has had one of the most successful careers of all time, followed by a legion of cult fans. His "Halloween" is one of the greatest horror films of all time, and one of the most influential. He occasionally makes his duds, like any director, but in this case, the good far outweighs the bad. "Assault on Precinct 13" is an utterly refreshing film experience that manages to maintain a fast speed but never appears to be cheating its target audience, or treating them stupid. The movie is being remade in 2005, with a considerably higher budget, bigger names, and probably worse directing. I don't really look forward to this remake because I can almost guarantee that, given the age it is being made in, there will be many pointless plot explanations, worse dialogue and bad direction. "Assault on Precinct 13" does not really need to be made again because the first one works so well. History has taught us that most remakes are not at all on the same level as their influences - just look at Hitchcock's "Psycho," then Van Sant's. If it isn't broken, don't fix it. "Assault on Precinct 13" is not broken and it does not need to be fixed.

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