Assault on Precinct 13 appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Though not rife with flaws, the transfer lacked the sparkle necessary to excel on a consistent basis.
None of the problems related to sharpness. Maybe a smidgen of softness interfered on a few wide shots, but those remained minor. The vast majority of the movie seemed crisp and concise. Jagged edges and shimmering created no issues, and only a smidgen of edge enhancement was apparent. A few specks popped up through the movie. These weren’t much of a distraction, though.
Assault presented a severely restricted palette. That’s typical of modern action flicks, and it suited the grim winter setting. When colors appeared, they seemed fine, but don’t expect much from the intensely gray-blue visuals. Blacks were fairly dense and deep, but shadows were erratic. At times the low-light shots appeared distinctive and well-defined, but other shots came across as dense and too opaque. In fact, the presence of the clean low-light scenes made the problematic ones even more noticeable. Ultimately, that factor was the main issue with the transfer, as it made this dark movie less attractive than I’d expect.
Matters improved for the film’s soundtracks. Assault on Precinct 13 presented both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 mixes. I thought the DTS version was a little stronger. I’ll discuss it first and then relate why I preferred it.
Given the movie’s many action scenes, I expected a lot of auditory information, and the track delivered. From the opening drug bust through the extended titular attack, the mix opened up matters well and delivered a lively, involving setting. Gunfire created the most prominent element, as bullets zipped all around us. Other effects also popped up in logical spots and created a fine sense of place. The mix cranked the action into high gear and did so well.
Audio quality was solid. Speech consistently appeared natural and distinctive, with no edginess or concerns related to intelligibility. Music was bright and bold, as the score showed good range and detail. Effects packed a punch. Gunfire and explosions blasted us with clean, realistic tones. Bass response occasionally seemed slightly boomy, but usually the low-end was smooth and tight.
Why did I favor the DTS track over the Dolby Digital one? It seemed more aggressive and powerful. The DD mix presented a similar soundfield but it came across as slightly restricted by comparison. It wasn’t as dynamic, but it remained pretty good on its own.
While not packed with extras, Assault on Precinct 13 comes with a mix of materials. First we find an audio commentary with director Jean-Francois Richet, writer James DeMonaco and producer Jeffrey Silver. All three sit together for this running, screen-specific piece. Though not without its strengths, the commentary ends up as fairly average.
The trio touch on a good number of topics. They get into references to the original flick and various other homages, casting and working with the actors, sets and locations, visual effects, stunts, script variations, and general notes. For the most part, they keep the track moving, though dead air creeps in at times. Unfortunately, quite a lot of bland praise pops up as well, and that factor can make the chat tedious. If I downed some booze every time Richet said “I love zis shot!” I’d have been trashed by the movie’s conclusion. We learn a reasonable amount about the flick, but the self-congratulatory tone makes this a mediocre commentary at best.
Five deleted scenes run a total of six minutes and 10 seconds. Mostly these provide minor character bits like a little more antagonism between Bishop and Jasper or Bishop flirting with Iris. Also mentioned in the main commentary, the most significant shows Duvall as he puts one of his men out of his misery. I can understand why they cut it, but it’s a surprisingly interesting sequence.
We can view the sequences with or without commentary from Richet. He gives us quick notes about why he chopped out the different scenes. Richet usually sticks with basics and provides little insight into the editing process. Only the Duvall scene receives much discussion, but we already know what Richet has to say about it from the main commentary.
Next we find five featurettes. Armed and Dangerous lasts four minutes, 54 seconds, and includes movie clips, behind the scenes materials, and interviews. We hear from weapons specialist Charles Taylor. He takes us on a tour of his “mobile armory” to show us the movie’s guns up close, and he also tells us a little about their use in the movie. Taylor provides enough information to make this moderately useful.
After this comes the seven-minute and 28-second Behind Precinct Walls. It presents comments from production designer Paul Austerberry as he takes us on a tour of the main precinct set. He tells us some design notes and offers a decent little take on his work.
With Plan of Attack, we get a four-minute and 27-second look with information from stunt coordinator Steve Lucescu. He talks about the specifics of sequences like an actor on fire and an SUV crash, and he also discusses general stunt concerns. Like the other featurettes, this one’s brevity makes it fairly superficial, but it adds a few nice bits.
Up next, The Assault Team fills five minutes, 17 seconds. We hear from Silver, Richet, and DeMonaco. They talk about the story, the movie’s tone, and issues related to the shoot. What little information we get mostly appears in the commentary as well, and this piece aims mostly to praise the participants. Some decent behind the scenes snippets appear, but they’re not enough to make this anything other than fluffy.
For the final featurette, Caught in the Crosshairs takes 12 minutes, 34 seconds. Another promotional piece, we hear from Silver, Richet, DeMonaco and actors Ethan Hawke, Maria Bello, Brian Dennehy, John Leguizamo, Laurence Fishburne, Gabriel Byrne, Aisha Hinds, Drea de Matteo and Ja Rule. They discuss the story and characters, and some notes about shooting the flick. Movie clips dominate this glorified trailer.
A few promos open the DVD. We get ads for Unleashed, White Noise, and Seed of Chucky.
Though the original Assault of Precinct 13 is no classic, it looks awfully good in comparison with this tepid remake. Despite a stronger cast and better production values, the 2005 Assault is a bland, forgettable flick. The DVD presents good picture, terrific audio, and a collection of sporadically interesting extras. Generic action filmmaking at its least memorable, I can’t recommend Assault.