John Carpenter set out to make a Western, and instead summoned a vision of apocalyptic post-punk L.A., creating the single clearest bridge between Hollywood-at-the-OK-Corral and 80s action bonanzas. Carpenter never excelled at wit or chemistry like Howard Hawks, and Precinct 13 is in dire need of an actor as charismatic as Kurt Russell, let alone John Wayne. But the siege is terrific, the faceless menace iconic.
While I am not of the opinion that this one is the underrated masterpiece that many whose opinions I trust say that it is...that being said, it's still a tight, entertaining thriller. Yeah, the Rio Bravo influence is obvious, but nowhere near a rip-off or remake, IMO. All-around solid.
Carpenter in the raw. Bleak, uncompromising, rough around the edges, but static and calculated in a way that many contemporary low-budget genre pictures aren't. What sticks in the mind? The slow pans across desolate wastelands, the roaming gangs backlit by street lights, the shootouts in the dark. The first of Carpenter's (then) modern-day 'siege films', and one of his best.
Assault on Precinct 13 is Night of the Living Dead turned into a cops vs. gangs movie. I've seen it a few times over the past few decades but it took a few watches for the genius to register. Carpenter's superb score and simple plot work so well together. The ice cream truck scene was harder to get through than a brick wall but the cast was superb. One of Carpenter's best.