Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) Review

Assault on Precinct 13 posterDirector: John Carpenter
Stars: Austin Stoker, Darwin Joston, Tony Burton
Genre: Action, Thriller

Assault on Precinct 13 was John Carpenter's second film (after the very low-budget Dark Star two years earlier) and, boy, what a film it is.

The plot is simple enough. A Los Angeles street gang named Street Thunder target a precinct that is in the process of being closed down. Inside the precinct there is only one police officer, two secretaries, and two prisoners, and they must work together to hold off the waves of endless gang members.

The film has been called a mix between Howard Hawks's Rio Bravo and George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead, and Carpenter has admitted to being influenced by both. If you think about it, Assault is basically a zombie movie. You have the survivors inside trying to hold off the infinite flow of unknown, expendable antagonists

As with many well-executed zombie films, the large group of enemies outside does make you feel a bit scared. How the hell are these few people going to survive against all of them? you'll find yourself wondering. The street gang is pretty intimidating; they're great in number, they're silent, and they have no fear of death. 

There's some great suspense and tension present and the drama between the people in the precinct is great. You never know if you can trust the prisoners, so there's this ever-present sense of unease. Will the prisoners take advantage of the situation and kill the cop? There's a lot of wonderment and unpredictability in this film. 

The soundtrack is amazing, composed by John carpenter himself. I'd recommend watching Assault on Precinct 13 simply for the great score and theme music. It's a wonderful electronic sound, something that wasn't very popular at the time. 

Street Thunder gang members in Assault on Precinct 13

There's plenty of violence in here. The film doesn't hold back. There's cops getting killed, little girls receiving the wrong flavor of ice cream (and then getting killed), and plenty to satisfy any fan of violence.

There's some interesting cinematography here and the acting is great. The actors are all mostly unknowns, but Austin Stoker's great performance as a police officer and Darwin Joston's great portrayal of a memorable character are as good, if not better, than anything coming out of Hollywood at the time. 

Assault on Precinct 13 1976

John Carpenter took a low budget, a handful of unknown actors, and made a classic. Contains elements from action films, westerns, and even elements from horror films. It should satisfy fans of all genres.

4/5 stars

Purchase Assault on Precinct 13 on Amazon: Blu-Ray - DVD - Stream - Soundtrack

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