I didn't have a clue what to expect when I went into Assault on Precinct 13. All I knew was that it was a movie about cops and starred Ethan Hawke and Lawrence Fishburne. Needless to say, I wasn't very disappointed. The story itself seems to be a rehash of many other movies out there (and it also happens to be a remake of the 1976 release). So it doesn't really seem to offer very much new. Despite all that, it's still a very entertaining action flick.
The movie is about a Sergeant Jake Roenick (Ethan Hawke). Several months back, he was on a narcotics detail that went awry. His entire team was slaughtered. Now distraught and sick of life, this Detroit cop doesn't really seem to care what's going on. Then on the last night that Precinct 13 is going to be open, Roenick gets forced into an unpredictable situation. Earlier that day, a unit in the Organized Crime and Racketeering division arrested one of Detroit's biggest crime bosses, Marion Bishop (Lawrence Fishburne) and while he and a few other criminals were being transported to a maximum security prison, they got stranded (due to a snow storm) in a very unlikely place, Precinct 13. Unfortunately for everyone at Precinct 13, somebody wants Bishop dead and they will stop at nothing. Without many options and only a few people to rely on, Roenick must join forces with an unlikely group, the four criminals. The rest of the movie is about this small force (cops and criminals) defending themselves with what little they have against a massive force.
Overall, I found that this was an entertaining movie, but keep in mind that it really isn't a great movie. The movie begins with a completely different tone than the rest of it. It's actually my favorite part. Hawke gives a stunning performance playing an undercover cop posing as a drug dealer. It's both amazing and hilarious to see him. Unfortunately, after the movie's introduction, the stunning performances seem to get thrown out the window and replaced with a lot of gun shots and explosions. Of course, this isn't necessarily bad, because the action sequences are done pretty well and prove to be very entertaining.
Other than that, there doesn't really seem to be a whole lot about this movie. The entire plot is pretty weak, because it doesn't really offer very much. The story tries to be different by adding in a lot of surprises. And there are a lot of surprises, but they're also fairly transparent. In addition, the writing seems to offer a very unrealistic story. The situation itself is highly unlikely and the actual outcome seems beyond reality. Please check your brains at the door.
In general, the acting performances aren't very special either, which is more or less due to the writing and not the actual actors. All of the character roles are pretty limited, which makes sense because a lot of them die. Laurence Fishburne plays a role he's play before, a total badass without a flicker of emotion. His character feels a lot like his roles in Hoodlum or even The Matrix. I didn't really like this role, because it felt a little too unoriginal. Another way to look at it is that Fishburne's role is the 'classic' bad guy portrayed as a good guy. Despite that he has killed many people without second thought and that he traffics drugs, he's portrayed as a bad guy hero. You know, the bad guy who does good things and you have to like him because he's such a bad ass? On a positive note, he does fill that role well. Ethan Hawke's role felt like he was being underplayed. There just wasn't much to it. As earlier mentioned, he does a miraculous job in the opening sequence, but nothing he seems to say or do later in the movie even grasps that same epitome. The other supporting roles were decent and probably could have been replaced with just about everyone.
Despite the movie's shortcomings, it's just a fun action flick to sit through. It's one of those movies that you really don't (and shouldn't) think about too much to enjoy it. However based upon that last statement, I could easily see why many people would be put of by this movie. Suffice to say, you need to enjoy mindless action to really enjoy this movie. If you do, Assault on Precinct 13 should capture your attention for about two hours. However, it's probably not one you'd want to watch again.