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A classic

Posted : 6 years ago on 4 November 2012 10:21

Since I have seen every single major movie directed by John Carpenter ('The Thing', 'Escape from New York', 'The Fog', 'Halloween') except this one, I just had to watch it really bad. Eventually, it took me a very long time to finally get my hands on it. Unfortunately, something quite dreadful happened under way. Indeed, even though I finally managed to secure a DVD while vacationing in France, when I was back home, I realized it was a French dubbed version with no original version with or without subtitles... So, that was a major disappointment but I still didn't want to throw the damned thing away. Anyway, eventually, I thought the movie itself was pretty good. Basically, it is a B movie, an exploitation flick, and even though, I'm not a huge fan of this genre, this was definitely one of the best that I have seen so far. Of course, the acting and the dialogues were not nothing amazing but it is really inherent to the genre, and since the whole thing was in French (shrug...), maybe it was just some poor dubbing. The plot was not bad, sometimes a little bit hard to follow, and apparently inspired by 'Rio Bravo', another classic I have just seen recently, but pretty much like its illustrious predecessor, I failed to see what was so amazing about this story. Above all, I really enjoyed the amazing score by John Carpenter. Indeed, Carpenter is not only a very good director but also an impressive composer who produced some really memorable soundtrack (I'm pretty sure everyone has heard the 'Halloween' theme at least once in their life). To conclude, even though it is nothing really amazing, as a B feature, it is pretty good and it is definitely worth a look, especially if you like the genre.

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Brilliant action thriller

Posted : 10 years, 4 months ago on 5 July 2008 10:38

"There are no heroes anymore, Bishop. Just men who follow orders."

Director John Carpenter is distinguished for classic genre-defining films such as The Thing and Halloween. It's little known that in 1976 Carpenter directed Assault on Precinct 13: this taut, fast-paced, thoroughly riveting low-budget action film. The aptitude of Carpenter's film is the way he cleverly takes inspiration from several westerns (most notably Rio Bravo) as well as the classic zombie horror film Night of the Living Dead. Carpenter's overhaul of these films is undeniably one of the greatest action/thriller productions from the past few decades, but unfortunately it's now relatively disregarded (especially with the remake released in 2005). Assault on Precinct 13 is a completely diverse take on the customary police thriller: from start to finish the film is exciting, exhilarating, shocking and fast-paced - yet was backed by a minuscule budget!

Film students should take note of the dexterity in the filmmaking. The film's budget constraints are never palpable due to the technical proficiency: competent editing, focused directing, impressive acting and exciting action. It doesn't take long before the action kicks in. Brief dialogue scenes to set up the plot precede a wholly intense string of action. You will be on the edge of your seat until Carpenter allows you an opportunity to breathe again. As soon as the opening fire-fight and bloodbath erupts, we are then shown the relentless murder of a young girl before moving onto a vigorous siege when the action never lets up.

The film is set in an unsavoury part of Los Angeles where a gang known as Street Thunder rules the streets. They have acquired a cache of automatic weapons which the police force are currently searching for. After several gang members are killed in a police shoot-out, the remaining cohorts swear revenge and begin roaming the streets. Meanwhile, a nearby police precinct is set to be relocated. A skeleton staff supervised by lieutenant Ethan Bishop (Stoker) is brought on board to "baby-sit" the establishment until the official closing in the morning. A distraught father witnesses the death of his daughter, and then shoots the leader of the gang before running to the nearby precinct (the same one, of course) for protection. The gang follow the father to the precinct and declare war on the people inside. Throughout the course of the night, a siege unfolds as people inside work to defend themselves from the never-ending hordes of gang members.

The plot is straightforward, simple and easy to comprehend. Film students should further take note of the way Carpenter treats the simplicity of the plot. Carpenter employs the simple premise for a tense, compactly composed succession of action sequences, emphasising discreet character development and escalating tension. The action is so shockingly memorable due to the violence levels and high body count - it's so skilfully choreographed it totally belies the limitations of the small sets and no-name actors. The lighting is used to best effect, with the streets shown as dark and gloomy. This makes the situation even more menacing because the enemies are hiding in the unknown. John Carpenter also created the remarkably memorable and haunting score. It's catchy, stylish and incredibly original. The main theme is as unforgettable as his Halloween music. Also thrown into the mix is a cast of unknowns. Even though the film industry hasn't seen much of them since this film's release, they all complete their jobs outstandingly! If you're working on a low-budget action picture, this is definitely a film to turn to for inspiration.

Overall, Assault on Precinct 13 is an excellent action film. No-one can congregate restricted claustrophobia like John Carpenter. The cast of relative unknowns do a terrific job, providing potentially two-dimensional characters with genuine depth. This provides the audience with something real to be concerned about, rather than an assemblage of people we feel indifferent towards. Assault in Precinct 13 is certainly not the best film Carpenter has made, but it is still an unbelievably sturdy primitive effort and was a good indication of the master Carpenter was destined to become. Remade in 2005.


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Grand Assault

Posted : 11 years, 9 months ago on 11 February 2007 05:13

Not to be confused with the abysmal and unnecessary remake of the same name, this film actually achieves in creating a thrilling atmosphere of suspense and terror. With hardly any dialogue and very little explanation, all you need to know is that the streets are littered with criminal gangs who are armed, remorseless and extremely violent.

When these gangs unite and descend on an undermanned police station to exact revenge on a father who killed one of their own, you have a classic siege scenario. Outmanned and outgunned, the occupants of the station find themselves embroiled in a bitter war in the middle of a vibrant city against an enemy who is not afraid of death. An excellent film with a pulsating soundtrack to boot.

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