Directed by Jean-François Richet

Based on the story by John Carpenter

– Laurence Fishburne as Marion Bishop
– Ethan Hawke as Jake Roenick
– Maria Bello as Alex Sabian
– Peter Bryant as Lieut. Holloway
– Gabriel Byrnn as Marcus Duvall

Matt Cale loves the shithouse…

Another remake? Is there really nothing better in the Shithouse?

The creative minds of Hollywood strike again, dear readers, although the weeks ahead promise all new original creations such as Ice Cube’s Are We There Yet? and the spine-tingling Boogeyman. Having not seen the original from John Carpenter, however, I’m not allowed to get as upset as I normally would. But something tells me the 1970s didn’t have to put up with Ethan Hawke.

But you loved Hawke in that one film, right?

Before Sunset. A fluke.

The title pretty much says it all. Anything else we need to know?

Ethan Hawke is a depressed, pill-popping cop now reduced to desk work while he recovers from losing his partner in a drug bust gone bad. On the snowiest night of the year, Detroit’s hardest criminals, including the notorious Marion Bishop (Laurence Fishburne), are transferred to the understaffed Precinct 13 for the night. Chaos ensues, and a group of crooked cops trying to protect their relationship with Bishop storm the joint to make sure he doesn’t testify and ruin their lives. The out-manned and outgunned members of Precinct 13 (cops and criminals join forces in a heartwarming display of camaraderie) save the day, although just about everyone involved is left bleeding in the snow. There’s hint of a romance, junkies crack wise, and a few vehicles explode but good.

Ah, yes–Laurence Fishburne. Is he contractually obligated to play the Scowling Black Guy?

Given that he hasn’t smiled on camera in at least a decade, I would say yes. Fishburne will never top the self-righteous smugness of his Furious T. Styles turn in 1991’s Boyz N the Hood, but here, he’s sufficiently morose. And he’s a poet too, man, as he riffs on sex and death with all the conviction his glassy-eyed stare affords him. And I think I heard a character say that Bishop had been shot dozens of times, yet was still alive. It makes sense, though. Hollywood has been trying to kill this man’s career for ages and yet he keeps coming back for more.

And I see Maria Bello is on board. What is it this time — whore, trashy bar owner, skank with a heart of gold?

Something far darker, I’m afraid: she’s Hawke’s therapist. Amazingly, she treats the ailing cop at the station, and she shows up for their sessions looking like she’s ready to throw in a lap dance free of charge. Bello has a pretty amazing set of gams, but that chest won’t make anyone forget the girl’s locker room of your average elementary school. Bello shares a few tender moments with her patient, and even ups the aw-shucks factor by having OCD (when stressed, she counts in multiples of 124 or something). Thankfully for all concerned, she dies like a dog without having kissed Hawke goodbye.

I assume she dies heroically, given that she’s a coward at first?

Partnered with a sassy black woman, she tries to divert the guns so that Hawke and Fishburne can pick off more snipers. Alas, she’s captured and killed because she defiantly refuses to divulge any information about the resistance inside the precinct. In a great twist, she’s shot in the head by Gabriel Byrne, who is the top cop in this corrupt game, and seems to care more about “his men” and their pensions than being charged with 16 counts of capital murder.

Be honest: how grizzled is Brian Dennehy?

He snarls, spits, and curses, which can only mean one thing: he’s actually a traitor and at the last minute, he’ll betray Hawke for a few pieces of silver. Before he’s revealed to be a turncoat SOB, a red herring is introduced that forces a scene where Hawke nearly kills his old buddy because of evidence which points to his guilt. As the gang is rounded up for execution, Fishburne wounds the old salt with a weapon that flashes a bright light and causes a tremendous amount of pain. If I’m not mistaken, however, the fat fuck lives on.

I think you mentioned Detroit. Still a city of dreams?

If anything, Robocop understated its future. Fine, most of this film stayed indoors, but early on, we get a church massacre that could not have taken place anywhere else. Okay, maybe Atlanta.

John Leguizamo? Is he someone dignified, like the mayor? Perhaps a priest?

In a bizarre turn, he plays a motor-mouthed junkie/thief who is so obsessed with conspiracy theories and “justice” that he sounds like a Rage Against the Machine record. Once the criminals are armed for battle, he displays the most enthusiasm, stabbing a crooked cop with enough force to split the fucker in two. He even manages to escape late in the film, but he gets a bullet right between those bloodshot eyes.

A few head-shots sound good, but were there any other memorable deaths?

Hawke stabs some dude in the eye, the stacked secretary knifes a man in the neck, Byrne gets plugged at close range, and best of all, Fishburne slams a guy with not one, but two Molotov Cocktails. If that sequence proves anything, it’s that there’s nothing quite so hilarious as a man literally on fire. Couple that with senior citizenry or mental retardation and it’s enough to make you weep with joy for one’s country.

Any memorable lines? Something we can use for the next NAACP fundraiser?

Only the following joke from Leguizamo to Fishburne: “Okay, Puerto Rican guy and a black guy in a car. Who’s driving?” Drum roll please………..Answer? “The cops.”

But that’s not funny.

Give me a break here; it was either rent this or another Hilary Duff holocaust.

About Matt

Matt is the site’s Longest Serving Critic and chief misanthrope. He divides his time between classics of cinema and the most ridiculous movies he can find on Redbox.
Follow Matt: @mattcale52