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Assault on Precinct 13

4.2 out of 5 stars 177 customer reviews

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(Feb 03, 2009)
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Editorial Reviews

In this unrelenting action masterpiece from director John Carpenter (Halloween, Escape from New York), a police station under siege from a vicious street gang becomes a cataclysmic battleground where only the strongest survive! Inspired by Howard Hawks' immortal western, Rio Bravo, this explosive gem from one of cinema's great frightmasters has been newly restored with a host of high-powered extras!

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Henry Brandon, Peter Bruni, Tony Burton, Charles Cyphers, Frank Doubleday
  • Directors: John Carpenter
  • Format: Color, Dolby, Restored, Special Edition, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
  • Studio: Image Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: February 3, 2009
  • Run Time: 91 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (177 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B001KEGR8O
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #212,199 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Daniel B. Waldman on February 22, 2001
Format: DVD
One should not watch this movie expecting the highly choreographed gunfight ballets that John Woo initiated & every other action movie has followed ever sense. This movie preceded all of that. The plot focuses on a small group of police officers and convicts fighting off a relentless street gang in an all but abandoned precinct. There are two central heroes of this movie: Bishop, a Black Police Chief who is new to the job & looking for a little adventure at the beginning of the film (a superior officer asks him "Do you want to be a hero your first time out?" "Yes, Sir," Bishop replies); and there is Napolean Wilson, a White man on his way to death row when the prison bus he is riding is forced to make a detour (check out this plot twist: another prisoner starts coughing & wheezing, nearly passing out, and guess what, rather than pulling a shiv on the cop who examines him, it turns out the guy is really sick! How often does that happen in a movie?). Napolean Wilson is a man with a lot of snappy comebacks. He says everything that we wished we'd said in certain situations after we thought about it because we know it would be so cool. More than one character says "You're pretty fancy, Wilson." The details of Wilson's crime is never revealed, but the fact that it was exceptionally savage is clear by the response of everyone else's response to him. These characters could have been lifted from any John Ford movie, but the fact that the movie takes place mostly at night and has a more contemporary time frame gives the movie a sweaty-palmed urgency that the Westerns lack. Even though the movie was made in 1976, the scene where the street gang cruises around & considers who to kill in a random drive-by shooting feels all too contemporary.Read more ›
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Format: DVD
Before there was Halloween, there was Assault on Precinct 13, John Carpenter's second movie and arguably his first masterpiece. Fans of his later work should be warned though, there's no traditional horror or supernatural elements here, just one of history's all-time great low-budget action movies. By now the plot should be familiar to just about anyone reading this review: a lone cop and a couple of lifers have to defend a virtually abandoned police station against a street gang's onslaught. However, it's what Carpenter does with this concept that makes Assault on Precinct 13 such an exciting and memorable watch. It's a brilliantly executed pressure-cooker of a movie, thrusting a few decidedly disparate people into an unimaginably dire situation and letting us watch them as they try to figure out what to do about it. Although Carpenter has made much of the influence of classic westerns on this movie (Rio Bravo in particular), there are also ample doses of the eerie minimalism and stark brutality that Carpenter brought to Halloween, along with the tense, claustrophobic atmosphere that characterized much of Night of the Living Dead. Released in 1976 against the backdrop of escalating violence and decay in America's cities, the movie plays perfectly into fears of urban crime, as a small band of heroes are literally confronted with an onslaught from a small army of gang members. At bottom, though, Assault on Precinct 13 is a story of courage and heroism under the worst of circumstances, and it accomplishes this difficult task without being the slightest bit preachy, which may be even more impressive.Read more ›
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Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
The film itself is three-and-a-half stars out of five; taut, eerie, violent, suspenseful and (best of all) fun, this is a fine example of a lo-fi 1970's "B" suspense-action thriller. At it's core, "Assault On Precinct 13" is a 1970's "grindhouse" feature with characters and a premise straight out of Howard Hawks and John Ford westerns. This was "B" film master John Carpenter's second feature (after the ultra-low budget amateurish sci-fi spoof "Dark Star"), and his terrific skill with suspense and atmosphere really became evident with this film; his use of lighting, shadows and darkness in the film are textbook examples of how to make a "B" suspense flick on the cheap. The music, another classic (albeit corny) John Carpenter synth score, also contributes considerably to the film's "B" movie goodness.

On the other hand, his handling of action sequences are merely workmanlike and competent, and for all the great (and not so great) films Carpenter would later go on to direct, he would never really improve much in that area. Another weakness that holds this film back from "B" movie perfection are some painfully rank amateurish acting performances (we're talking "1970's porn" bad); for some, this may add to the fun, but for me, it only distracts from an otherwise well-made, slick little thriller that really makes the most of its feeble production budget.

In the final analysis, "Assault" is not Carpenter's best work (for me, "Halloween" and "The Thing" hold those honors), and the film has become dated to be sure. Yet for those who are game, the film's datedness ultimately works in its favor, as time has all but ensured that "Assault" remains a funky, eerie (and fun) time capsule of a bygone film era.
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