The unnecessary remake crushes what is the essence of the original. The first, low-budgeted Assault has a B-movie sensibility, a tight plot, short running time, and no preening movie stars. Todays big-budgeted Assault has movie stars galore, a plot that not only rambles and takes you away from the precinct house, but also borders on silliness, and its much longer, pointlessly longer. Instead of Los Angeles, were in an urban wasteland area of Detroit on New Years Eve while a blizzard is raging. When filmmakers have to go for hoary cliches like blizzards, you know youre in bad shape (or in a wet blanket version of Die Hard 2). Anyway, the precinct is going to close down for good, but on New Years Eve some cop buddies gather together for one last hurrah. Theres a young cop (Ethan Hawke, whos actually not that young) with deep, dark problems (he shot the wrong people or something like that). Theres a gruff old curmudgeonly cop nicknamed Old School (Brian Dennehy). And theres a sexy, vulgar precinct secretary (Drea de Matteo), willing to hump a chair, it seems. And for good measure, Hawkes shrink, played by Maria Bello, is hanging around. See, I told you, ludicrous.
So, by quirk of fate (and cheesy screenplay machinations), a captured mega-drug kingpin (Laurence Fishburne) arrives at the station house because the blizzard has forced his arresting officers to find shelter. There are some other baddies on the bus, including Ja Rule and John Leguizamo. Meanwhile, a bunch of other cops bad cops are planning an assault on precinct 13 to kill the drug lord. Theyre led by Gabriel Byrne, a cop-on-the-take. He doesnt want the big drug kahuna to testify talk about his own dirty dealings. Seems hes been tracking Fishburne in the snow. And thats the gist of this torpid, inane movie directed by Frenchman Jean-Francois Richet, who produces rap music in France for a living, a job to which he can always return. I hope. The shoot-outs are standard big gun scenes that prove nothing except the fact that Hollywood can make em loud, but cant always make em good.
What the heck has happened to Robert De Niro? Look, Im glad the guys making a living, but the intense and quirky actor from Taxi Driver, The Godfather II, and The King Of Comedy is starting to resemble one of those hacks who show up on television in an anthology program like The Love Boat. This time around, De Niros taken on Hide And Seek, a very dumb fright thriller with very dumb frights. Interesting sidebar, this is the first movie in the history of the movies ever entitled Hide And Seek. Thats what you think about while wasting your time on this drivel. De Niro is dreadful in this leaden effort, as are Elisabeth Shue, Amy Irving, Melissa Leo, Amber McDonald, Robert John Burke, Famke Janssen, and Dylan Baker, who plays a sheriff with the same laconic overtones he brings to everything else hes every played. The cast is wasted, and not in a good way. The key to the movie is the nutso behavior of a little girl, so read on.
De Niro is a psychologist whose wife kills herself in one of those over-the-top Hollywood suicide scenes. Daddy De Niro decides to take the couples young daughter to the woods. No, seriously, they move to the country. Shes played by Dakota Fanning. Her acting is almost as annoying as her name. So up in bucolic-land, actually upstate diary-farm wondrous New York State, strange things start happening as the kid creates an imaginary friend. Redrum indeed. Stephen King should sue. I should mention that the imaginary friend is named Charlie, and he/she/it starts wreaking havoc all over the place. Of course, theres no such thing as imaginary friends who can spray paint scary words on sheets or bang closet doors, so unless the daughter has discovered a malevolent Casper the ghost , oh please, the movies a crock. Director John Polson, who made the not very frightening Swimfan (about a teen girl stalker of a sleek high school swimmer) has no qualms about stealing from Rosemarys Baby (the greatest psychological horror movie ever made) or from The Shining (not bad, either). If you find yourself laughing every time Little Miss Fanning goes into her endless eyeball glistening, hard-staring routine, dont worry. At the showing I attended, almost everyone else in the theater was laughing, too.
William Shakespeare wrote that politics makes strange bedfellows, but I gotta tell ya, theres a doozy on the home-viewing horizon. I never thought Id ever write this sentence, but theres a movie being released on DVD that offers up the question: was Adolph Hitler gay? For homosexuals and lesbians everywhere, you hope the answer is a sharp NO WAY, JOSE. I mean, come on, bad hair, bad moustache, bad décor. He couldnt possibly have been gay. Of course, he did have a thing for uniforms. Those SS outfits had a certain style. But if he were gay, take a bit of pity the gay image: with friends like Hitler, who needs enemies. The movies called The Hidden Fuhrer: Debating The Enigma Of Hitlers Sexuality.
The truth is that when Strand Releasing offered up this tidbit I thought it was a spoof movie, sort of like Spinal Tape Goes To The Rhineland. But amazingly, its real. In 2001, German historian Lothar Machtan published a book making the case that Hitler was a homosexual. Filmmakers Fenton Bailey, Randy Barbato, and Gabriel Rotello have come up with a documentary look at the possibility that Hitler did a lot more than liked the way his soldiers marched. The filmmaking trio even interview author Machtan. He was bitterly attacked when his book came out, and he defends his thesis, writing style, and honor on camera. The gist of the argument for Hitler being a homosexual is multi-faceted. Heres the pitch. Hitler had intimate friendships with men, carried on myriad near-chastity relationships with women (somewhere Eva Braun is confused), had high-level dealings with powerful German gays, battled gay rumors when he was growing up, and, now heres my favorite, he had an obsession for art and opera. All thats missing is a fixation to scour the kitchen sink and you just know the guys a homo. Hitler was a failed artist as a young man and if liking Wagner makes you guy, well, that makes a lot of people gay.
I watched The Hidden Fuhrer with an open mind, but couldnt help notice the stacked deck. As a film, its actually well-made and breezy and rather entertaining. As political intrigue, its a good mystery. But as truth? I still dont know if Hitler was gay, even after watching the thing twice. What he was was nuts. Meanwhile, on the American side of the closet door, according to some people, it turns out that Abraham Lincoln might have been gay, or at least bisexual. Somebodys written a new book entitled The Intimate World Of Abraham Lincoln that explores the possibility that our sixteenth President liked guys. Ill wait for the movie.
By Michael Calleri
ALT Movie Editor
In last weeks Buffalo Alternative Press, a layout error resulted in quite a number of paragraphs in Short Takes disappearing into the vapor and seriously truncating reviews of two major Hollywood commercial films. Because its a slow movie week (fortune smiling), here again, and hopefully intact, are the reviews of Assault On Precinct 13 and Hide And Seek.