Assault on Precinct 13 (1976)

Assault on Precinct 13
Director: John Carpenter
Writer: John Carpenter
Cast: Austin Stoker, Darwin Joston, Laurie Zimmer, Martin West, Tony Burton, Charles Cyphers, Nancy Kyes
Seen on: 20.9.2022

Precinct 13 is about to be closed down and moved to another location. Still running with a skeleton crew, officer Ethan Bishop (Austin Stoker) is asked to run the night shift. It should be a calm gig – basically just overseeing packing and rerouting calls to operating police stations. But then a prisoner transport, carrying among others infamous Napoleon Wilson (Darwin Joston), has to make an emergency stop for a sick prisoner. And then a violent street gang starts attacking them all, forcing Bishop to team up with the prisoners, and station secretary Leigh (Laurie Zimmer) to show that she is made of stern stuff.

Assault on Precinct 13 is an engaging action movie with great characters and a fantastic soundtrack. I really liked it.

Tge film poster showing a gang rushing towards the broken window of Precinct 13.

I’m not the greatest action movie fan. I usually like them until the shooting and/or car chasing begins, then I mostly find them boring. Assault on Precinct 13 is not that different in that regard – the long shoot-out and the eponimous assault on the police station was a little tiring for me. That doesn’t mean that the action was bad. They had some good ideas, and everyhting was pretty well executed. It’s just the part that doesn’t interest me all that much.

But Carpenter knows that a film doesn’t live off spent bullets alone and he offsets all that shooting with interesting characters that get enough space so you can actually get to know them. And that part I really loved. The central three – Bishop, Wilson and Leigh – are a fantastic team of characters. I liked all three of them in their own way. It’s easy to root for them and to fear for their safety. Plus, the tension between Leigh and Wilson is something that should be taught in film school.

Police Officer Bishop (Austin Stoker), police secretary Leigh (Laurie Zimmer) and inmate Wilson (Darwin Joston) gearing up for a fight.

I was a little confused about the street gang, I have to admit – they swear an blood oath in the beginning (going from later Carpenter movies, I honestly thought that they were doing witchcraft, but there is nothing supernatural going on here), and I’m not sure what they were swearing to. General mayhem? Fuck the police? Shoot everybody? So their initial violence at the ice cream cart – very well done, by the way, really shocking – doesn’t actually make sense to me. But if I go off the theory of “they just want to see the world burn”, it doesn’t need to make more sense.

To round things off, I really enjoyed the soundtrack that is very much a product of its time, but we’ve come full circle, musically speaking, to a point where it feels absolutely modern and almost timeless. And that seems to speak for the entire film.

Napoleon Wilson (Darwin Joston) and Leigh (Laurie Zimmer) looking at each other intently.

Summarizing: an action classic that still works very well.

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