Assault on Precinct 13 November 18, 2016
As its title effectively advertises its premise, unsurprising is the film’s revolving around an attack on a defunct police station by a ruthless gang. Seeking revenge as a result of LAPD officers ambushing and killing six members of the criminal outlet, affiliates swear to break a twisted sort of even with the law and with the citizens of Los Angeles. Precinct 13 only become a target hours later due to the shooting of an innocent bystander, who heads to the station — in the process of relocation itself — to seek help.
The only remaining personnel at the precinct are Lieutenant Ethan Bishop (Austin Stoker), a newbie assigned to watch over the establishment for its last few hours, Sergeant Chaney (Henry Brandon), a law enforcement veteran, and a pair of secretaries, one self-possessed (Laurie Zimmer) and one skittish (Nancy Loomis). No one’s prepared for the very real threat that’s about to hit them, but because Bishop’s got fire in him that advertises why he got hired in the first place and because a mix-up leads a ragtag team of coincidentally escaped prisoners to aid the heroes that initially locked them up, this quasi battle of LA might still end up being won by the accidental brave hearts that don’t choose to use the word relentless in place of their middle name.
In Assault on Precinct 13 do we have my favorite kind of thriller, the kind of thriller in which convolutions and plot twists aren’t part of the ball game. Preferred is a sparse ensemble, an uncomplicated plot, and action better at getting the job done than being detrimentally flashy. From 1975’s Jaws to even 2005’s Red Eye, I like my cinematic sweat to drip often and reliably; every once in a while do the melodramatics of suspense greats a la De Palma and Hitchcock fail to do it for me. Refreshing is a thrill unafraid to find the beauty in straightforwardness.
In store is one of Carpenter’s most accomplished films, despite its being only his second in a career of twenty-one. In two years would he find myself to be a genre definer with 1978’s flawless Halloween; in six he’d find a long and successful professional collaborator in the inimitable Kurt Russell. Like the Coen Brothers’s Blood Simple (1984) or Don Siegel’s The Big Steal (1949), Assault on Precinct 13 stands as a precursor to a great career. B+
1 Hr., 31 Mins.
ohn Carpenter’s career kickstarting Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) isn’t much able to be as gritty as it’d like because money isn’t always as ample for directors still trying to prove themselves. But akin to most masters of the celluloid is Carpenter able to make something special out of basically nothing. Like his very own Mario Bava (an Italian horror maestro who was able to make a superb piece of atmospheric terror with just a couple bare sets, a barrage of plastic rocks, gaudy stage lights, and a smoke machine on overdrive with 1965’s Planet of the Vampires), Carpenter’s able to rise
action blockbuster imitating adrenaline out of us with a handful of prop guns, a scattering of willing actors, and a single set. Cheap it feels, but that’s part of the fun: Assault on Precinct 13 is makeshift suspense supple in its thrills and bracing in its simplicity.