January 24, 2005

Assault On My Freaking Brain

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Seeing a remake for John Carpenter’s 1976 classic, Assault on Precinct 13, brings mixed emotions. A remake is a double-edged sword: the bigger budget and star power offer a chance to bring the original’s story to a larger audience while the Hollywoodizing of this story will surely dilute its original flair. Furthermore, giving the project to a rookie director who, in my humble opinion never saw the original, is suicide. In the end, the polish and prestige without the panache takes the beautiful original and turns it into a modern high-class whore.

Initially, Assault works. Opening with John Roenick (Hawke) and his team doing a drug bust, we are shot-gunned into this sucker. We jump eight months ahead to New Year’s Eve. Lawrence Fishburne, is shipped off after being caught in the act. Hours later, Roenick is joined by a sexy female cop and an old captain. But wouldn’t you guess it, four criminals are dropped off at Hawke’s hut, including Fishburne, John Leguizamo and Ja Rule. Whoever did casting is a genius.

Suddenly, assassins bust in and try to take out Fishburne, but Roenick is all over it. After fending off his fort and taking down an assassin or two, he discovers that they are dirty cops, led by Gabriel Byrne worked with Fishburne, who now might testify against them. And once Roenick finds out about it, everybody inside has to be killed to keep the secret safe. Granted, a lot of this stuff is exciting and, though derivative, keeps you in your seat. Tragically, we find this twist out thirty minutes into the film. The angst of being uninformed gives a film momentum. Sadly, Assault had no momentum because the last 70 percent of the film we are totally aware, no surprises. We need good action to stay satisfied and we never get it — think soft-core porn.

Cops arming criminals for assistance is an amazing idea with unlimited potential. Everything after that falls on its ass. The humor is one-dimensional and the characters are underdeveloped. The relationship between the good cops and prisoners is a bunch of failed Mexican standoffs. Would Byrne really have an entire slew of thirty dirty cops working for him? And if so, would they really have that much trouble taking out three cops, four criminals, and a psychiatrist? The entire process is like watching Steven Segal take out forty bad guys, one at a time.

So many things are left unanswered. Roenick’s sentiment in the end for Fishburne is a combination of Cage letting Connery go in The Rock with the obsessive revenge of To Live and Die in L.A. Hollywood is turning into a garage sale of cult antiques. As long as they just don’t touch The Godfather and The French Connection, they can whore themselves all they want.

Archived article by Dan Cohen
Sun Staff Writer