A number of elements both horrific and action oriented combine as the siege on a closed down police station begins in this classic John Carpenter film that makes a welcome appearance on the 101 Action Movies list.
6 gang members are shot down by cops, raising tensions on the street, as Lieutenant Ethan Bishop (Austin Stoker) is given the babysitting job of watching over a closing station house for the night. As a group of gang leaders takes a blood oath to exact revenge on the public for the deaths of their members they go out cruising for trouble.
This leads to a startling quick and horrifying murder of a little girl and an ice cream man. The little girl’s father Lawson (Martin West) chases the gang’s car down and shoots his daughter’s murderer down, only to be chased by the rest of the gang.
He makes for the nearest police station, Precinct 13.
At the same time, a prison transport arrives with a sick prisoner, causing them to stop their journey and hole up for the evening at the station.
Helping Bishop is Leigh (Laurie Zimmer) one of the station’s secretaries. as well as Napoleon Wilson (Darwin Joston) one of the prisoners.
This is pure Carpenter, familiar camera moves, a synth score he composed (as well as writing the film), fun dialogue but for me, the fact that I didn’t know any of the actors, added a nice level of realism to the film, leaving you to wonder, right up to the last-minute, who was going to live and who was going to die.
While it’s true that not all of it works now, hence the update from in 2005, it still has some great moments.
There could be arguments, of a political nature, about what the members of the gang really represent, none of their faces are ever seen but for the gang leaders, so one could cast them as almost any thing or one you wanted all while the common man, both hero and villain, struggle to fight to survive.
One of my favorite things in the film is people constantly asking Napoleon how he got his name, and him promising to tell them, at the right time. It almost felt like a Snake Plissken kinda thing.
This, like all of Carpenter’s films entertained me greatly, I’ve always liked the way he makes his films, the worlds he’s created and the lives he imbues his characters with. This Carpenter film was a first for me, I’d never seen it before, sure it doesn’t fall into the same awesome category as his collaborations with Kurt Russell, but it is awfully good.
There’s humor, action, some jumps, and the action keeps coming to the final moments of the film.
I’ve often talked about my fave Carpenter films… what are yours? Did you see this one?