“It’s an old story with me. I was born out of time.”
A rookie cop (Austin Stoker), a secretary (Laurie Zimmer), and two prisoners (Darwin Joston and Tony Burton) find themselves under siege at an abandoned police station.
Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary’s not nearly as much of a fan of this cult low-budget thriller by John Carpenter as I am. Throughout his review, he compares it unfavorably with Carpenter’s earlier Dark Star (1974), arguing that Assault “could have used extra financing for some reshooting”, that “the dialogue scenes in particular need more polish”, and that while “Dark Star comes across as being a complete original… Assault comes across as being derivative”. Yet no scenes in particular stand out as needing reshooting, the dialogue is more than serviceable, and Carpenter’s overt homages to both Howard Hawks’ Rio Bravo (many argue it’s a remake) and George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead should simply please film fanatics, given that he takes the best elements of each of these films and uses them to impressive effect in his own unique story and setting. Indeed, one marvels at how well Carpenter is able to work with the resources available to him — abandoned L.A. streets, unknown actors, his own simple and repetitive yet hauntingly effective synthesized score — to create a film with “consistently tense” atmosphere and “amazingly accomplished” low-budget action sequences.
Several of the performances by Carpenter’s little-known actors are worth calling out: Austin Stoker is nicely cast in the lead role as a young cop facing the confrontation of a lifetime in his first day on the job; Laurie Zimmer as a sultry, plucky secretary effectively channels Lauren Bacall (surely a conscious choice); and Darwin Joston is truly memorable as convicted murderer Napoleon Wilson, whose complex personality slowly emerges over the course of the film. (Click here to read more about his sadly underdeveloped career as an actor.)
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Darwin Joston as Napoleon Wilson
- Austin Stoker as Lt. Ethan Bishop
- A compelling homage to Hawks and other greats of film lore
- Carpenter’s edgy, synthesized musical score
Yes, as a deserved cult classic.