Carpenter's second feature is a lean, urban reworking of Hawks' Rio Bravo. The B-movie maestro has always produced impressive results on shoestring budgets, but this $100K production delivers a lot of bang for the buck; I can't think of any other film that was so well produced at such low cost.
As there were corners to be cut, the cast consists primarily of experienced unknowns. Even the leads (blaxploitation veteran Austin Stoker and television performer Darwin Joston) wallowed in obscurity since this movie's American box office failure and overwhelming European success. It's doubtful that Joston would have landed his anti-hero role if he hadn't been Carpenter's next-door neighbor. The performances range from serviceable to impressive, and tend towards the latter.
In addition to stretching a miniature budget to its fullest length, Carpenter also implemented an economy of concepts quite creatively here. The minimal plot and character development are sustained by a variety of cleverly executed action scenes and nerve-wracking scenarios. What could have been a mindless exploitation flick is elevated to the level of an inventive, carefully choreographed actioner that deserves the devotion of its cult audience.
While the 2003 special edition DVD of Assault was released only in widescreen format, another sparse 2005 edition (containing only the film and a scene selection menu) is available in both full screen and widescreen aspect ratios. Caveat emptor: the aspect ratio is only specified in fine print on the back of the cover slip, so read it closely before you decide to purchase a copy in a retail outlet. I was lucky enough to find a widescreen copy.
Assault on Precinct 13 is one of my childhood favorites. A crazy film about all of the L.A. street gangs forming a pact so they can terrorize the streets together. When one of their own is killed and the person responsible enters a skeleton crew manned Police precinct the gauntlet is tossed and they decide to wage war upon the building and kill anyone and everyone in it. Can the cops inside survive the onslaught of street punks? I love this picture. This is John … more