The light of the police siren shines upon the infested streets of a metropolis. As it searches for potential trouble, darkness hides beyond the reach of the men in uniform. One threat could be the Crips, another could be the Gambino crime family, and yet another could be the Japanese mafia. The search to find a way to take down these gangs can be a frustrating issue, given how not only large they are, but of how connected they could be to the neighborhood. Just getting rid of the troublemakers could spell the end of street that had been operating in that manner for years. So how do we take them down?
The problem in a lot of major cities is that these groups aren't just big, but can often have hundreds of members that are trained to blend in with society. The man selling hot dogs and even fellow police could be a possible member. This is certainly not a new thing as federal forces have had to deal with this for years. Today's movie takes us back to the 1970's in a crowded, yet secluded area of Los Angeles that involves few fighting many in Assault on Precinct 13.
Within the Anderson ghetto of South Central, a local gang called Street Thunder has just stolen a large amount of ammunition. The LAPD manages to kill a bunch during an ambush, but that was just opening the floodgates. Recently appointed CHP officer Ethan Bishop (played by Austin Stoker) is assigned to supervise the last day of the thirteenth precinct before it moves. In there are Sergeant Chaney and two secretaries, Leigh and Julie. At the same time, a bus with three prisoners is forced to stop at the precinct as one of them is sick. While their waiting for medical attention, a shell-shocked man bursts in.
It turned out that his daughter was gunned down by Street Thunder gang members and he retaliated by shooting a warlord. They in turn chased him and saw that he ran inside the precinct. Just before help can be called, the phone and power is cut as possibly a hundred more members reign a hail of gunfire. Several people are hit, with Bishop, Leigh, and two of the prisoners, Wilson (Played by Darwin Joston) and Wells surviving. With much of the bodies and blood mysteriously cleaned up by Street Thunder, those in the thirteenth precinct have to try to survive before they get in.
For his first movie, John Carpenter hit a home run with Assault on Precinct 13. While not having any big stars and mostly confined to this one location, the movie makes up by having a tense tone throughout. And this is even before everyone is trapped. The sequence involving Street Thunder just looking through a gun scope to find people to kill gives you that sense that there is nothing redeemable about these people. That's probably why when they descend onto the police precinct, they seems like living zombies from Night of the Living Dead.
As he probably couldn't afford anyone major, this forces all the main characters to have some well- defined personalities that made you root for them. I really got into Austin Stoker as the new guy on the block, trying to figure out the best way to make do with the few weapons they have. He's an example of how a leader is done right in this situation. This balances out well with Darwin Ioston, who seems relaxed about the situation, as if he's seen far worse, and is a likely, though unsure ally. This makes for some interesting banter.
Along with the good script is some great, even frightening action. The film is smart to never have a leader of Street Thunder, causing us to view the villains more as a force rather then as a character. All they do is create a marker on the precinct and that's all you need to know that they have nothing to lose. I won't spoil what makes them a challenge (believe me, it's more then the gunfire), but when it happens, you know that our heroes are in a tight spot. This creates a constantly moving plot that seems to act like a time bomb; you never know what's going to strike.
I'll give this nine Ice Cream trucks out of ten. Those that want to understand how a tense tone should work needs to view Assault on Precinct 13. The best way to describe why I enjoy this is that it's a thriller that's made like a horror; unpredictable, but fast paced. This is one dangerous neighborhood that's worth going through.