Tag Archives: Tony Burton

Assault on Precinct 13 (1976, John Carpenter)

The titular assault in Assault on Precinct 13 doesn’t start until just over halfway through (and not at Precinct 13, but whatever). Until that point, Carpenter methodically lays out the elements to synthesize at the sieged police station. He introduces a tense gang situation, a new lieutenant (Austin Stoker), a convict being transferred to death row (Darwin Joston) and a man (Martin West) possibly unwisely traveling through the ghetto with his daughter (Kim Richards).

The way Carpenter portrays the L.A. ghetto is interesting. It’s empty, quiet and sometimes rather beautiful. He also treats the gang members like zombies–they don’t talk, they have no personalities. They’re just young and multiracial. Assault is a warning against young urban men of all creeds and colors.

Carpenter timestamps the scenes, bringing a scene of reality and commonplace to the film. When the timestamps finally do disappear, it’s because the audience–like the cast–is trapped.

At that point, Assault has its most beautiful sequence. The gang assaulting the police station is using silencers and, as they destroy it, the only sounds are of papers flying, windows breaking and drywall puncturing. It’s otherworldly.

When Carpenter finally does bring in the outside world, the timestamps return and the film’s changed entirely. In the midst of the rushed action, the film becomes about its characters and their relationships.

Great performances from Stoker, Joston, Zimmer and Tony Burton. Charles Cyphers has a nice smaller role. Excellent photography from Douglas Knapp, amazing editing from Carpenter.

Assault‘s a masterpiece.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Written, directed and edited by John Carpenter; director of photography, Douglas Knapp; music by Carpenter; produced by J. Stein Kaplan; released by Turtle Releasing.

Starring Austin Stoker (Ethan Bishop), Darwin Joston (Napoleon Wilson), Laurie Zimmer (Leigh), Martin West (Lawson), Tony Burton (Wells), Charles Cyphers (Starker), Nancy Kyes (Julie), Peter Bruni (Ice Cream Man), John J. Fox (Warden), Marc Ross (Patrolman Tramer), Alan Koss (Patrolman Baxter), Henry Brandon (Chaney) and Kim Richards (Kathy).


RELATED


THIS FILM IS ALSO DISCUSSED IN SUM UP | JOHN CARPENTER, PART 1: THE WONDER YEARS.

Advertisements

Rocky Balboa (2006, Sylvester Stallone)

I’m fairly sure there’s never been a film like Rocky Balboa before. The closest is probably Escape from the Planet of the Apes. Rocky Balboa is about its story and its characters, but it’s also about the audience’s pre-exisiting relationship not with the characters, but with Rocky movies as a piece of history. Stallone uses this relationship early and sparsely, to establish Balboa as something worth watching. Once he’s done, he moves on to more interesting things, but Balboa maintains a mystique about it. The idea of a movie character aging in a film’s absence is one infrequently dealt with and usually poorly (The Color of Money). As a concept, it ought to work. (Clint Eastwood once said he’d do a ‘Dirty Harry Goes Fishing’ sequel). But Rocky Balboa is the first time I can think of it’s worked and it works really, really well. It’s easily the best film of the series (which, minus the first one, isn’t hard).

The boxing aspect of Rocky Balboa comes in so late, it’s actually unimportant to what’s going on in the movie itself. If Rocky had been a bowling champion, it’d be the same degree. Well, maybe not bowling. Arm-wrestling maybe. (I can’t remember the name of Stallone’s arm-wrestling movie). He’s old and he’s alone and it’s about him working his way out of a long rut, trying to reform a family around himself. When the boxing finally does come along, it seems like it might not even–if it weren’t a Rocky movie–go anywhere.

Stallone directs Balboa quieter than I’ve seen anyone direct a modern film in a long time. It’s a loving, patient approach and it works beautifully. Only when it gets to the boxing match, shot to look like a televised bout (on DV), does the film lose that understated beauty. Watching it, I wondered if Stallone intended it to look different because it actually was so removed from the rest of the film. I also wondered if it’d look different on DVD, once everything had been digitized. During the boxing match Stallone stumbles a little, trying to find the right way to present the story in film. These stumbles are never annoying though, just visible.

The acting from the principles is great–Stallone’s very aware of what he can and can not do and he only gives himself the stuff he can do. Similarly, Burt Young’s got a bunch of great stuff to do too. Geraldine Hughes plays a grown-up version of a character from the first film and she’s fantastic. Antonio Tarver is fine as the adversary, with some too weak scenes but enough to be a problem. As Rocky Jr., Milo Ventimiglia acts a little bit too much with his styled hair, but Stallone does a lot of work in those scenes and carries him through. The other scenes Ventimiglia’s in, he needs to look like a men’s watch model and manages. The stuff between Stallone and Young is great, but familiar. The stuff between Stallone and Hughes is great and new and somehow more rewarding, because this relationship is what kick-starts Rocky Balboa‘s story.

Going in to Balboa, I wasn’t expecting much. I was expecting something decent or at least inoffensively watchable, but certainly not something great. It was a really nice and totally unbelievable surprise.

3.5/4★★★½

CREDITS

Written and directed by Sylvester Stallone; director of photography, Clark Mathis; edited by Sean Albertson; music by Bill Conti; production designer, Franco-Giacomo Carbone; produced by Charles Winkler, William Chartoff and David Winkler; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Starring Sylvester Stallone (Rocky Balboa), Burt Young (Paulie), Geraldine Hughes (Marie), Milo Ventimiglia (Robert Balboa Jr.), Antonio Tarver (Mason “The Line” Dixon), James Francis Kelly III (Steps) and Tony Burton (Duke).


RELATED