What we have here is a "siege tale." Sergeant Jake Roenick (Ethan Hawke) is a down-on-himself fallen hero with a self-imposed desk job and a drinking problem. Marion Bishop (Laurence Fishburne) is the ruthless leader of an organized crime syndicate who was recently arrested for murdering a cop. Mix these elements, and what do you get? Why, trouble, of course!
Set on New Year's Eve and fleshed out with an assortment of admittedly fun characters (Drea de Matteo as Iris Ferry, the hot cop secretary; John Leguizamo as Beck, a two-bit drug addict also in custody; Maria Bello as Alex Sabian, Roenick's mandatory therapist, just to name a few.), the movie really kicks off when Bishop and several other hoodlums from various walks of crime become temporarily jailed at Roenick's fledging precinct -- a small, rundown building with a couple of gritty cells and broken clocks. A snowstorm prevents anyone from leaving and, assumedly, anyone from getting in.
So when a bunch of armed men surrounds the precinct, everyone assumes that they belong to Bishop. Not so. They're evil cops, poised to murder everyone indoors to keep the lid on a long-running profit-sharing deal between the bad good guys and Bishop's bad bad guys. Roenick and Bishop are forced to team up for the sake of survival, and you can fill in the rest.
For a movie that tries to do what "Assault on Precinct 13" tries to do, the element of real urgency is sadly missing. Even when the cops are chucking grenades through the windows and half of the penned up characters' motives are in question, everyone finds time to soliloquize about sex or have quiet moments of solitude to lament over issues that have purely nothing to do with the people outside trying to kill them. It feels naughty to blame a director who went through so much to make this picture for the misfires, but when the first 18 shots of Fishburne's character are exactly the same, right down to the way he rolls his eyes upward, who else can you point to? Save this one for a Sunday on the couch. Starring Ethan Hawke, Laurence Fishburne, Drea de Matteo, Maria Bello, John Leguizamo and Ja Rule. Directed by Jean-Francois Richet. Written by James DeMonaco. Produced by Pascal Caucheteux, Stephane Sperry and Jeffrey Silver. A Rogue release. Action/Drama. Rated R for extreme violence, language and drug references. Running time: 109 min