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Assault on Precinct 13 (2005)
Unite and fight.
Filmmaker(s): Jean-François Richet

On New Year's Eve, inside a police station that's about to be closed for good, officer Jake Roenick must cobble together a force made up cops and criminals to save themselves from a mob looking to kill mobster Marion Bishop.

Assault on Precinct 13 (2005)

Acting by Surrounding

This movie is easy to describe. It is a zombie movie. Carpenter’s world is one in which everyone is besieged by demons. It is only a matter of what shape the refuge takes. So he seamlessly maps strong movie situations to this form. And it is Carpenter’s vision that is extended a bit here.

So start with this being a zombie movie, except the zombies are faceless except for their controllers who we don’t really encounter until the end. Endings are always problematic in zombie movies because audiences see their own desperate barricade and want to have some hope of escape. But the situation only works dramatically if there is no escape.

That’s the form, and by itself it is rather uninteresting. What is interesting is how this filmmaker has decided to turn it into an actor-centric project. This is a somewhat interesting turn because the setup demands that the movie be situation-centric. Oh, you usually have the “Ship of Fools” business about characters bumping up against each other, “discovering” or redeeming themselves.

And that’s here, and somewhat heavily developed as the funk of our hero is explained in full detail, and at the same time giving us the textbook fast start.

But from the first scene you know that what you are going to get here is actors doing actorly things. All the oomph in this is centered on that. The situation is just a familiar wrapper that is used to define bounds for us, an easy to read set of character fences that define zones in which these actors are permitted to roam.

They chose serious actors of a certain type. Everyone here comes from that philosophy of acting that is perhaps the most noble: no reliance on personality, no recourse to referencing other performances (the main hazard when doing remakes) and no cheating. What you get here is honest shaping.

It isn’t the kind of acting I usually celebrate in my comments. I like the intellectual presentation where the actor is telling us something about the process of creating the character when she is. This is something different. Hawke, Bello, Fishburn, Burn, even Denehy in his smiling way. These are all that type who will show up and want to discover a person, who want to shape a person from the constraints they find in what is written and what they discover about their fellow adventurers.

For each of them, it is a process not much unlike the barricade, the assault and the escape into a full person that the larger container sketches here. It isn’t a great movie, and perhaps not the best example of this — usually you find this in some dreary tragedy. The excesses of “Mystic River” were along these lines.

But if you decide you want something more old fashioned in terms of cinematic conventions and acting, this isn’t a bad bet.

Posted in 2005

Ted’s Evaluation — 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.


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