Assault on Precinct 13

Not really Recommended. The story of a group of bad cops assaulting an old police precinct in order to kill a criminal housed inside who will testify against the dirty cops. Pretty straightforward predictable action movie. The hero, played by Ethan Hawke, is a burned out ex-Narcotics undercover who blames himself for his partners being killed in a sting operation. So it has the standard cop action film storyline of redemption. He must overcome his self-blame and withdrawn inactivity in life. If he doesn’t, he will be killed by the bad guys. So “action” is not merely a reference to guns and fights, but a metaphor for salvation. We must act in order to find life. Sitting around and contemplating is not living. In this sense, action movies tend to be Existentialist. Not entirely false. But these kind of movies are tough to make hard line recommendations on. On the one hand, I heartily affirm movies that reinforce that we must fight against evil, even to the point of killing in self defense. This is a good countercultural value to our culturewide appeasement of evil. If we just give evil men what they want, they will leave us alone. Sound familiar? There’s even an old cop who says that line, thus reinforcing those who treasure life more than justice. This is all good stuff. I love how the hero is a man attempting to be righteous, to do what it right. Ethan won’t release the criminal to save his own skin. He has a commitment to the law and he will do his job. These kind of things are great moral worldview elements. The problem is that sometimes these kind of movies can degenerate into Darwinian survival of the fittest contests. For instance, where kindness and wits do not necessarily win, but brute force and cleverness does. In this case, there are a bit too much brutality which can tend to overshadow the righteousness aspect. There are a bit too many close ups of people with bullet holes through their heads. In fact, I think there were about 7 or 8. The love interest of the hero is killed near the end, which was a real unpredictable shocker in terms of the genre (You just don’t kill the love interest), but I think it lended toward a more nihilistic Darwinian worldview. And they go out of their way to keep the camera on her face with the bullet hole through it, way too long. This was particularly pessimistic. It was like saying, this is the end of Love: Death. Period. All your hopes for love as the resolution of this story are despair. The Criminal, played by Laurence Fishburne says in a church that he doesn’t believe in God because of the evil in the world, another atheistic evolutionary argument for the “war of all against all.” The Criminal emphasizes several times that he is helping the hero fight the bad guys only because it is in his self interest for self-preservation to do so. Ethan lets the criminals loose to help fight against the crooked cops attacking them. A sort of evolutionary cooperation to survive. Of course, the criminal should think this way, cause that is what he is. But he stresses at the end that he let’s the cop live only out of thanks for saving his life. But if he tries to stop him, he will kill him. Again, consistent in one sense, but the stress on it in the story seemed to me to be too much. It tended to reinforce that Darwinian survival determines this ending, not righteousness. This movie was just a little too much survival of the fittest and too little righteousness for me to really recommend.

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