Synopsis:A blizzard on New Years Eve forces a busload of prisoners to take shelter in an understaffed precinct which is due for closure. Soon both the inmates and their unwilling guardians find themselves under attack by bands of corrupt policeman. These crooked cops have surround the precinct with the intention of killing everyone present to keep the deception in the ranks from being exposed.
I've never watched the 1976 original directed by John Carpenter, but I did do some research. Apparently it was one of Carpenter's better films, closely compared to "The Thing" (1982). He dared to be different and steer away from the average Hollywood cliches.
The film has the same basic plot: good and evil must unite against a common enemy and fight to the death. In the new film, the new relationship is between Sergeant Jake Roenick (Ethan Hawke) and Marion Bishop (Lawrence Fishburne), a powerful crime boss.
In the original, roles were somewhat reversed as Darwin Johnston played the role of Nathaniel Wilson - a murderer on his way to prison to face the death penalty for committing several gruesome murders. The good cop (played by Austin Stoker) was called Bishop.
Also, a deadly gang was the mob after the bad guy, where in the remake, it's a bunch of cops who are the actual bad guys.
Precinct 13 is one of Detroit's oldest precinct houses and is closing down on the last day of the year. Heavy snowfall and unsafe road conditions, leaves a few offices on duty for New Year's Eve. The team on duty, is headed by Sergeant Jake Roenick (Ethan Hawke) - a good cop trying to overcome some bad memories of a fatal undercover operation a few months earlier.
On that same night a fearsome crime lord, Marion Bishop (Laurence Fishburne), is cornered by an undercover policeman. Their ensuing struggle leaves the officer dead and Bishop captured, by the Organised Crime and Racketeering squad run by Marcus Duvall (Gabriel Byrne). Bishop is arrested and herded onto a prison bus with several criminals: a hyped-up, drug addict Beck (John Leguizamo), a hustler known as Smiley (Jeffrey "Ja Rule" Atkins), and a female gang member, Anna (Aisha Hinds).
The prison bus gets battered by a snowstorm which forces it to stop at the remote Precinct 13 - where, as night falls, the prisoners are temporarily locked up.
The fact that he is responsible for this group of prisoners upsets Roenick. But Precinct 13's sexy secretary Iris Ferry (Drea de Matteo) - better known as Joey Tribbiani's sister in his new sitcom - and veteran officer Jasper "Old School" O'Shea (Brian Dennehy) won't let the increasing workload prevent them from celebrating the New Year.
When gunmen break in and attack the precinct, the officers look to Roenick for leadership and the cons depend on Bishop. The pair realise they must join forces to live. Fortifying themselves with minimal weaponry and maximum courage, they will not go gently into the bad night.
As they fight to the death, the thin line between good and bad begins to bleed together.
All in all, there's always action on the screen and with a bit of suspense, the film is not half bad. It also makes you wonder throughout the film when the two leaders are going to turn on each other.
I really didn't see the point of John Leguizamo and Ja Rule's characters in the film, but at least they get wiped out before they really start irritating you.
It's action-packed and you won't be bored. If you enjoyed the original however, don't watch it with high expectations.- Janine Lee Gordon
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