Friday, February 25, 2005
JOHN CARPENTER & THE ASSAULT OF PRECINCT 13 (article)
JOHN CARPENTER'S ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13
Everytime these new action movies come out, you get to instantly comparatively figure out the iconic film classics from which many of these seems to be patterned from. Maybe you've got to ask the question, what storyline, what plot for an action movie would still be original in this day and age? Perhaps one choice filmmakers do, nowadays, is to take these original iconic classics and remake it. But many are displeased with movie remakes, citing examples of the "Planet of the Apes" remake, the "Swept Away" remake, which have only degraded the reputation of the original. It asks the question, why remake a perfectly good movie in the first place?
Perhaps as an homage, for these remakes don't usually copy the entire storyline anyway. In the long run, only the good, successful ones deserve to even be regarded as legitimate remakes. Examples of this are the "Dawn of the Dead" remake, the "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" remake, and now, ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13.
Way back before DIEHARD introduced us to the thrill concept of action under siege, John Carpenter introduced us to ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 which is about a Police Precinct under siege, and the survivors inside, both cops and detainees must fortify themselves, united to fight the villains that intend to massacre them. John Carpenter has long been regarded as one of the masters of horror. But some may have missed the idea that John Carpenter is also the master of antiheroic machismo. From Snake Plissken (of Escape from New York and L.A.), to the clumsy antihero in Big Trouble in Little China, to the hard-ass protagonists of "Vampires" and "They Live" (where 1980's wrestler Roddy Piper discovers that aliens have secretly blended with our society), to the heroes of "Ghosts of Mars", where we see macho heroine Natasha Henstridge gets into (an equally balanced) fistfight with Ice Cube. John Carpenter's heroes are so un-vain, un-beautiful, sort-of-slobs, rude, and have some sort of psychiatric problem, yet these heroes look really cool brandishing some high-powered firearm. His heroes defy the conventional. It defies the boring clean-cut heroes that conform to masculine beauty and polite virtues. In the film "Escape from LA", the protagonist Snake Plissken decides to end modern existence by detonating an EMP device destroying all electrical devices on the planet (one of my all-time favorite movie endings). Only a John Carpenter hero can do something like that.
John Carpenter's first action movie where we can trace his love for anti-heroes is the 1976 movie ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 which is a claustrophobic, bloody, and exciting action movie about a police station under siege by a bad-ass LA gang. The film topbills Kurt Russell, whose role in this film was the obvious shade basis for the Snake Plissken character in the "Escape" movies. ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 became a classic in the genre of action. So much so that 9 years later, it has spawned a remake that has a stellar cast that includes Ethan Hawke, Lawrence Fishburne, and Gabriel Byrne, among others. And deservingly, it was a magnificent remake that is very much worth watching. Watch out for my review of that film next issue, entitled "SUPERB HARD-EDGED ACTION" I guess from the title of the review alone, it should entice you to get on this magnificent action flick.