Sunday 8 January 2017

Assault On Precinct 13 - Review


Certificate 15 - 1976

Written and directed by John Carpenter

Darwin Joston and Laurie Zimmer 

Released on Blu-Ray this week, John Carpenter's seminal 1976 action thriller is a finely crafted movie that is well worth either re-visiting or catching up with for the first time if it’s escaped you so far.

In a district of Los Angeles rife with organised gun violence, the police station of Precinct 13 is being closed down, with Lieutenant Bishop (Austin Stoker) assigned responsibility for the station's last few hours. The movie's narrative has already opened earlier that day with cops killing six gang members, so revenge is in the air. Adding to the tension, there's a prison bus in the area transiting to a city jail, but when a prisoner is taken ill on board the bus has to make an unscheduled stop at the police station.

Completing an incendiary cocktail of plot lines, Lawson (Martin West) who's just a regular guy, has witnessed his young daughter being shot dead in a gangland shooting while buying an ice-cream. Grabbing a gun, Lawson shoots and kills the gang warlord who killed his daughter but when the dead man’s fellow gang members start hunting him down, Lawson too arrives at Precinct 13 seeking sanctuary. Sworn to avenge their dead, the gang lays siege to the soon-to-be-mothballed station house. (Interestingly, Carpenter has since gone on to regret the bloody slaughter of the ice-cream girl, but for most the killing only adds to the yarn’s grim verité.)

It's not just Carpenter's richly-fruited story that makes the movie quite so mouthwatering, it’s also the detail he imbues in his characters. Who'd have expected that convict Wilson (sublime work from Darwin Joston) on-board the prison bus and heading towards death row, would emerge a hero. Or that a finely crafted even if unconsummated love between Wilson and police secretary Leigh (Laurie Zimmer) could add a level of pathos to the bloody violence that surrounds them.

Very much an exploitation movie of its day and with more than a nod to George A. Romero's Night Of The Living Dead, the craft in the director's suspense, photography, script and action offers a fine reminder of those halcyon pre-CGI days when filmmakers like Carpenter, Spielberg and Lucas laboured over the analog perfection of their imagery.

Assault On Precinct 13 is a classic and in this 1080p release which captures the 1970s Technicolor perfectly, it's a glorious trip back in time.

Available to purchase from Amazon and all usual distributors

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