Like it says on the box - a cross between Rio Bravo and Night of the Living Dead. Probably could not make this movie now, despite the fact that the ethnic backgrounds of the bad guys are all diverse. Love the low key performances by the main trio. Also love the fact that the heroes try to do what a normal person would try to do - like try and get help! If I am ever trapped in a building surrounded by an army of gun toting malcontents, I want Austin Stoker on my team. Surprised at how fast the movie goes once it gets started. By todays standards, the violence may seem pretty tame or even low key but it was something back in the day. Also has an awesome soundtrack.
Let me start by saying I love this film! I have two version of it on DVD (mistakenly thought there were new special features on one) and was looking forward to the blu-ray upgrade. Let me tell you friends, Shout/Scream has done this right. The picture looks good, very good but the outside night scenes are a bit too lightened up in my opinion. Not enough to ruin anything, just something you notice and go on. I believe all the special features from the previous dvds are here. Commentary by Carpenter (though I have not listened to it, so I am not certain it is the same one), convention appearance by Carpenter & Austin Stoker, the usual trailer and isolated score. There is also an (looks new) interview with Austin Stoker and with the former Nancy Loomis. (Hmm... that name seems familiar to Carpenter fans....) and it seems like there are more trailers but that maybe just me. If you are on the fence about this, I suggesting getting it. It's another early masterpiece by Carpenter and well worth your time. I know a few people that were turned off by the "low budget" look of it, but for me that makes it even better. Darwin Josten as Napoleon Wilson is one of the great performances of the 70s. He's an obvious prototype for Snake Plissken. This is, in my opinion, light years ahead and better than the big budget remake from about a decade ago. When it comes to Carpenter remakes, stick with the originals.
Assault on Precinct 13, in my opinion, is a very underrated John Carpenter film as well as an underrated film in general. I feel that John Carpenter himself is a criminally underrated director and I know I am not alone in this. The only film he directed that was a big hit was Halloween, which is the first John Carpenter film I saw as well. Even The Thing was not a hit when it first came out. I admit I did not know much about John Carpenter at first and only seen a couple of his movies. However, a reviewer I am a fan of on YouTube called ramboraph4life is a fan of John Carpenter and reviewed all of his movies. This prompted me to check out his other movies, and now John Carpenter is one of my favorite directors. Some of his films I do not care for like Christine and Village of the Damned. However, most of his films I really enjoy including this one.
The film stars a police officer named Bishop played by Austin Stoker. He has not done much else besides after this which is a shame because he did a good job here. He has been reassigned to this run down precinct that is about to be shut down called Precinct 13. As the film progresses he is joined by a cast of colorful characters like Wells (Tony Burton), Leigh (Laurie Zimmer), Lawson (Marin West), and Napoleon Wilson played by Darwin Joston. Darwin Joston, sadly, is another great actor that did not go on to do much after this. Together these unlikely comrades must defend Precinct 13 which is under siege by this faceless gang of fanatics.
There is so much going for this film. The story is simple, but sometimes simplicity is good. The film has great atmosphere and mystery to it. Normally having a group of faceless villains with no character is boring and a huge fault against the film, but here I actually think it helps the film. These gang members go all out as well. There is a scene where they actually kill a little kid in cold blood, which was quite shocking for the 70s. The fact that these people are nameless and often faceless adds to the dread and makes the situation direr for our main characters. The action is also great also.
The best aspect about the film is definitely the characters, particularly the two leads. I really love Bishop and Napoleon and their relationship they have throughout the movie. Even though one is a cop and one is a criminal, it is clear that they both respect each other. Plus they both are given clever dialogue especially Napoleon.
The film does have a couple issues. First off there is a character near the beginning named Starker (Charles Cyphers) who plays a big role in the beginning, but after a certain point the movie just completely forgets about him. We are lead to believe that he died, but if that is the case it was a really stupid death. Secondly, I thought that the girl, who played Leigh, Laurie Zimmer, is not that good of an actor. For example, in the film, she gets shot and she barely has a reaction.
Overall, Assault on Precinct 13 is a great action/thriller movie. I have not seen the remake so I cannot comment on that. However, as far as this film goes it is very enjoyable and I wish more people would recognize it.