‘Assault on Precinct 13’ (2005) is yet another pointless remake – and feels like it too

[rating=2]Starring: Ethan Hawke, Laurence Fishburne, John Leguizamo, Maria Bello, Ja Rule, Drea De Matteo, Brian Dennehy, Gabriel Byrne
Director(s): Jean-François Richet
Writer(s): James DeMonaco; Based upon the film written by John Carpenter

Ethan Hawke (pictured) fights to defend against dirty cops out to kill Laurence Fishburne in 2005's 'Assault on Precinct 13'
Ethan Hawke (pictured) fights to defend against dirty cops out to kill Laurence Fishburne in 2005’s ‘Assault on Precinct 13’

It was only a few years ago that I finally got the chance to see the original Assault on Precinct 13. I thought it was good. Entertaining, but a little goofy. I mean the plot’s kind of strange, but still, the characters were good and the action fun.

I wanted to catch the remake on the big screen, but never got the chance. However, I was given the opportunity to review the recently released DVD. The remake Assault on Precinct 13 does add some complexity to the story, but I’m not sure it really made the story any better.

There’s some good action, but beyond that, I’m left wondering what the point of these remakes are.

In the 2004 Assault, Jake Roenick (Ethan Hawke) is a down-and-out cop enjoying his simple desk job. A former narcotics officer whose partners are killed when an uncover operation goes bad, he escapes responsibility through drugs and staying off the street. Precinct 13, where he works, is being shut down. It’s New Years Eve, and he is one of only a handful of officers left behind to clear out the last of the files and old evidence.

With him is Jasper O’Shea (Brian Dennehy), as the experienced old beat cop, and Iris (Drea de Matteo), the over-sexed receptionist.

A blizzard outside leads a prison transport bus to take haven at the precinct. They are transporting several prisoners, including Bishop (Laurence Fishburne), an infamous cop killer and criminal.

Things get deadly when a group of rogue cops who Bishop has been working with arrives on the scene in order to take him out. They attempt to kill him, but end up killing the prison guards. When Hawke realizes that the gunman outside are cops, he must find a way to work together with Bishop and the other prisoners in order to survive, as the rogue cops quickly make it clear they are going to kill everything inside the precinct.

The reason I don’t get the point of these remakes is because they rarely offer anything new. Okay, I get the business logic. If the film succeeded once, it’ll succeed again (at least, that’s what producers believe). Hollywood is so desperate to find ways to make films that have the highest chance of earning money, so they simply pull out old films that people liked hoping that they’ll like them again.

But Assault on Precinct 13 doesn’t do anything interesting with the subject. It tries pretty hard to make it seem more logical, but ultimately offers less interesting characters and no really good conflicts. John Carpenter’s original may have been done on the cheap, but it was far more frightening and suspenseful, perhaps because the gang members outside had no logic. They had motivation, but we don’t see their point of view, and that made the threat that much more scary. I don’t mind remakes, but if they aren’t going to do something interesting with the subject, I’d be happier if they just left it alone.

There are a few special features on the DVD, including some deleted scenes, a few documentaries and an audio commentary that includes the film’s director, Jean-François Richet. The commentary isn’t bad, but Richet is a little hard to understand at times because of his thick French accent.

Rated: R
Run Time: 1 hr., 49 mins.

Michael Sheridan

Michael Sheridan has written, directed and produced more than a dozen short films under the banner of Maynard Films, and has worked as a writer for more than a decade for websites, magazines and newspapers.

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