Assault on Precinct 13 (1976 film)

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

Assault on Precinct 13 is a 1976 action/suspense film by John Carpenter.

The story is essentially Rio Bravo transported to The Seventies. When a soon-to-be-abandoned police station in a Los Angeles ghetto finds itself under siege from a violent street gang, a cop must enlist the aid of a secretary and two convicts to hold off the attackers until help arrives.

A remake, Assault on Precinct 13, was made in 2005, starring Laurence Fishburne and Ethan Hawke.

Tropes used in Assault on Precinct 13 include:
  • Action Girl: Leigh. Even after getting shot in the arm, she still manages to take down several mooks.
  • Anti-Hero: Napoleon Wilson. We never learn what was his motivation for killing five men, but hey, he's still a criminal.
  • Armed Altruism
  • Bad Humor Truck: Hey, this isn't vanilla twist...
  • Catch Phrase: Wilson's is up there.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Subverted, a lot.
    • It looks as if Napoleon will reveal why he killed his victims to the overzealous cop accompanying him, but as the siege starts, the cop is killed quickly. Napoleon actually laments not getting the opportunity to do so.
    • The phone booth in which Lawson takes cover in at first, and which Wells tries to run to before getting blown away.
    • Finally played straight with the magnesium flares, but not used until the very second. Justified in that there's no flare gun for them to be useful... yet.
  • Cut Phone Lines
  • Cryptic Background Reference: At different times Wilson is asked why he committed murder and why he's nicknamed "Napoleon". Both times he promises to explain later, but never does get around to it.
  • Danger Takes a Backseat: How Wells gets killed.
  • Developing Doomed Characters: At least Carpenter thinks so; on the commentary he regrets taking too long to get to the assault. The fans tend to disagree.
  • Deus Ex Machina: The patrol cops, searching for something completely unrelated (a missing phone company van dispatched to investigate cut phone wires), are the ones who call in backup before the station is completely overrun.
  • Diabolus Ex Machina: Some weird inversion or whateversion of it -- Lawson kicks off the plot and a lot of deaths by running into the police station, he himself sent there by the white gang member who casually shoots up the ice cream truck and Lawson's daughter. Both serve no purpose but to kick off the siege. Lampshaded by the secretary, who notes he was just some random somebody who brought Hell on the station.
  • Enemy Mine: Stoker is forced to rely on the assistance of two convicts (one of them a convicted murderer) in defending the precinct.
  • Equal Opportunity Evil: A radio announcer comments on the racial diversity of the gang, which would (then and now) be unusual in Los Angeles.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: All the action takes place over the course of a single night. Lampshaded by Ethan; after the initial hail of bullets, he comments that Lawson only came in about thirty minutes ago.
  • Famous Last Words: See Bad Humor Truck.
  • Girlish Pigtails: Worn by the little girl who gets shot and killed after complaining that she wanted a vanilla twist.
  • Harbinger of Impending Doom: Lawson.
  • Heroic BSOD: Lawson, after arriving at the precinct.
  • Hollywood Silencer: Plot point: the reason why the initial barrage goes unnoticed, and why the prison convoy detail is slaughtered after the station chief is shot. Why gangbangers have silencers on M16s is explained -- they stole a weapons shipment before the plot starts. Why they have silencers on revolvers, on the other hand...
  • Infant Immortality: Blown away with a vengeance.
  • It's Quiet... Too Quiet
  • New Old West: This was, after all, inspired by Rio Bravo.
  • Offhand Backhand: "Hey, this isn't vanilla twist..."
  • Phone Booth: Twice - first where Lawson calls his ex-wife, second when one of the prisoners tries to make a run to it.
  • Rain of Blood: As a Shout-Out to the scene with the wounded gunman in Rio Bravo
  • Recycled in Space: It's Rio Bravo in The Seventies. Or Night of the Living Dead with gang members.
  • Retirony: The story takes place during the titular precinct's final night of operations.
  • The Siege
  • Sweater Girl: Leigh and Julie.
  • White Gang-Bangers: Actually noted in-universe, as a news report on Street Thunder notes their unusual interracial status.