Assault on Precinct 13

John Carpenter’s second feature is a gorgeous minimalist machine — perhaps the ultimate triumph of form over content. In an abandoned L.A. police station, a motley band of cops, cons, and civilians defend themselves against a psychotic, ritualistic, heavily armed, and absolutely relentless gang. The movie isn’t about anything except the good guys (relatively speaking) trying to keep the bad guys out. Carpenter may take a few too many pages from Night of the Living Dead in this distilled tribute to Rio Bravo, but he adds some spins all his own — the most shocking being the casual murder of someone that 100 years of movies have led you to expect not to die. In its callous way, the movie harks back to the best B flicks; it has no flab whatsoever, no “plot getting in the way of the story.” Overall, a superbly assured piece of work. Carpenter also did the repetitive but effective score. This was remade in 2005; make sure you’re getting the original.

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