The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Assault on Precinct 13

Two years before his 1978 breakout hit Halloween, director John Carpenter made a low-budget siege drama called Assault on Precinct 13. The film got him some attention, and it inspired a 2005 remake starring Ethan Hawke and Lawrence Fishburne. Once considered a better-than-average grindhouse flick, Assault on Precinct 13 is now viewed as a great harbinger of the classic work Carpenter would go on to do. On November 19, Scream Factory will celebrate Assault on Precinct 13 with the release of a new special edition Blu-Ray, loaded with extras.

Austin Stoker plays Ethan Bishop, a cop assigned to a most unusual beat: he's put in charge of a precinct that's about to be closed. On the place's last night of operation, several visitors make their way to the abandoned building. One is a bus full of convicts making an emergency stop. The other is a man who has inadvertently lured a vicious gang known as Street Thunder to the precinct. The gang launches an all-out attack, cutting off all forms of outside communication and repeatedly shooting into the place. In order to keep himself and his staff alive, Bishop has to team up with one of the convicts, the killer Napoleon Wilson (Darwin Joston), to fight back against the enemies who vastly outnumber them.

John Carpenter has always been called a master of suspense, and Assault on Precinct 13 shows why. The movie has a tight pace and, just as importantly, a sense of logic. Bishop's strategies make sense; he does what he can to fortify the building, then looks for ways to fend off the marauders. As with Laurie Strode two years later in Halloween, Bishop fights back, which is satisfying because it's exactly what you or I would do. There is also great tension in the way Bishop tentatively has to trust Wilson. Will the killer up and side with the gang outside, or will he choose to redeem himself somewhat? He might even help defeat the gang, then kill Bishop for his freedom. Having the lead character square off against two separate foes gives the movie continually mounting suspense. As expected, Carpenter stages the action expertly, always getting maximum impact from the moments when Precinct 13 explodes into violence. That includes a shocking, now-famous sequence in which the director does the one thing you're never "supposed" to do in a movie. (No spoilers for the uninitiated!)

Scream Factory has assembled an impressive collection of supplementary material for the Blu-Ray. John Carpenter provides an informative audio commentary carried over from a previous DVD release of the film, while Art Director & Sound Effects Editor Tommy Lee Wallace has recorded a brand new track. Also on the Blu, you will find a 23-minute interview with Carpenter and Austin Stoker that was shot in 2002 at a special screening of Assault on Precinct 13. Stoker returns for a new on-camera interview, entitled “Bishop Under Siege,” in which he discusses landing the lead role and discovering old friend Joston had been cast alongside him. Nancy Loomis Kyes, the actress who plays one of the precinct's secretaries, is the focus of “The Sassy One,” a 13-minute long segment. Among other things, she offers thoughts on working with John Carpenter and her eventual exit from the acting profession. As with the extras on almost every Scream Factory Blu-Ray, it's incredibly fun to see the stars today and hear them reflect back on their work.

The original theatrical trailer and a collection of radio spots round out the bonus materials.

Assault on Precinct 13 is a first-rate action film that looks and sounds excellent on this new Blu-Ray release. It is most highly recommended for John Carpenter fans and those seeking some intense, down-and-dirty thrills. For more information, please visit the Scream Factory website.

Assault on Precinct 13 is rated R for graphic violence and language. The running time is 1 hour and 31 minutes.

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