Went to see an advance of "Assault on Precinct 13" last night. Didn't have extremely high hopes, though the presence of Laurence Fishburne in a movie usually means we'll get a sincere, gravitas performance with a lot of closeups (that man really does have the largest pores in the business). This was not something I would have told him, although he was in the audience (premieres are weird like that). In an unusual move for a celeb, especially the star of the film we're about to watch, he announced himself as he climbed to his seat: "Laurence, not Larry is here!" or something like that. I think someone must have used the over-familiar nickname and got on his case, so we all had to hear about it. Truth is, he's neither a Laurence or a Larry; those are names for my cousin in Baltimore and step-father and have particular connotations. I could buy him as a Marvin, if we had to go that route. I think the thing that saves him is the "u" in "Laurence." If it was "Lawrence," I don't think there'd be hope.
So the film wasn't horrible, because the cast was basically good, but as I left my friend Jerry and I discussed some of the utter absurdities: namely for one, why didn't they just pull the fire alarm in the precinct? Yes, we know all of the cell phones were disrupted, we know it was New Year's eve and snowing, and the electricity was pulled. But surely fire alarms don't rely on the electricity of a building being on; if the building's on fire, there's a good chance the lights aren't going to stay on long anyway. So every time I saw Ethan Hawke standing with his back to the wall and a RED FIRE PULL ME gizmo, I felt that someone should have at least noted that it was an option, then had it dismissed. Particularly since towards the end the place gets torched anyway and ... the fire department comes!
Another issue: Towards the end there's a hunt (oh, shut up, like you're going to go see this thing and I've ruined it) in the woods. The WOODS? We've been in a near-abandoned industrial park in Detroit this whole time, but somehow they can walk outside and enter not just a small copse of trees, but a full out WOODS? F'crying out loud.
Plus, you can totally figure out who the Mole is if you've seen more than 3 of these kind of films in the last 10 years. And if you don't know who it is by the time the Red Herring makes himself known, then I envy you your naivete. There's always a Mole. Why is that? If I'm ever in a real-life badass situation with people I think I know, the first thing I'm looking for is the guy who keeps screwing up the solution. That's the Mole. That's the guy I'll follow, 'cause he already knows the way out.
UPDATE: For the most part, Roger Ebert agrees.