Assault on VA 33 Poster

Assault on VA-33 (2021) Review

Assault on VA-33 or, if you’re in the UK, Assault on Station 33 has a title that evokes John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13 and a plot that reads like Die Hard in a hospital. It also has a cast full of DTV action heroes and Nicolas Cage’s son, Weston Cage Coppola. Can director Christopher Ray (Mega Shark vs. Crocosaurus, Minutes to Midnight) and writer Scott Thomas Reynolds (2nd Chance for Christmas) assemble these elements into a winning combination?

Jason Hill (Sean Patrick Flanery, Lasso, Hunter’s Moon) is a decorated veteran with PTSD and a bad knee. It’s a few days before Christmas and he’s at Buffalo’s VA hospital to see a doctor. And have lunch with his wife Jennifer (Gina Holden, The Exorcism of Molly Hartley, Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem) who works there and their daughter Sara (Sarah Elizabeth Jensen, Burial Ground Massacre).

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Things get thrown off track when General Welch, head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, (Gerald Webb, Android Cop) is brought to the hospital and Jennifer is called to an emergency consultation with him. They get worse when Russian terrorist Adrian Rabikov (Weston Cage Coppola, Circus Kane, Get Gone) and his team take the hospital hostage.

Not the most original of plots to be sure, but perfectly serviceable. Especially with Mark Dacascos (One Night in Bangkok, Batman: Soul of the Dragon) and former pro-wrestler Rob Van Dam (Bloodmoon, Sniper Special Ops) as terrorists and Michael Jai White (Triple Threat, Rogue Hostage) as Police Chief Malone.

Unfortunately, Assault on VA-33 starts to go wrong right from the opening scene. It begins by showing us part of the final showdown before going back to earlier in the day. Nothing like telling us who makes it to the end to kill the suspense.

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When Jason is recounting how he was injured to the therapist, we see the incident in flashback. I lived in Buffalo for twenty-five years and can tell that was very obviously shot among the abandoned grain elevators along the Niagara River. I know the cigarette smuggling rings that operate across the Canadian border play rough, but when did they get into open warfare with the USMC?

It also should be obvious to anyone that several of the exteriors of the hospital used different buildings in different parts of the city. Some of the parking lot exteriors were shot in a residential neighbourhood at what looks like the old Women’s & Children’s Hospital on Bryant Street. Others are from some building downtown. The sniper’s perch is obviously downtown, nowhere near anything residential.

The biggest problem with Assault on VA-33 however is there’s too much talk and not enough action. Why cast Michael Jai White in a film like this and not give him a fight scene? That’s taking stunt casting to a ridiculous extreme. Dacascos has a glorified cameo as well, but at least he gets a nice fight scene with Flanery. And Van Dam spends the film in a van in the parking lot, providing comic relief until his character just vanishes from the story. Instead, we get Vee (Brittany Underwood, One Life to Live) running around looking like one of those firearms’ fetish models from Instagram.

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Assault on VA-33’s script seems to ignore basic physics and reality at will. One of the booby-trapped doors gets triggered and nobody in the area seems to notice. Even Jason must have forgotten about it because he tells the cops they can’t get in because all the doors are wired with C4. Seems they could walk right in where that one used to be. A helicopter gets shot down and doesn’t do damage to any of the buildings around the crash site. The fire seems to go out instantly after it explodes, too.

I could go on, but it should be pretty obvious that Assault on VA-33 is crap thrown together with zero regards for continuity or logic. It’s not worth sitting through the tedium and stupidity for the burst of action in the last few minutes. Apart from Flanery vs Dacascos, it’s mostly routine gunfire and CGI blood anyway.

Patriot Films released it in the UK under the title Assault on Station 33 on March 15th. In the US, Paramount and Saban Films will release Assault on VA-33 in select theatres beginning April 2nd and On Demand and Digital on April 6th.

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3 thoughts on “Assault on VA-33 (2021) Review”

  1. Gregory Lee Lamberson

    Not to disagree with any of your opinions, but two entire paragraphs critiquing the locations because your familiar with the region? Movies do this all the time. It’s make believe. And yes, I worked on it. No hurt feelings about a negative review I was just a soldier on, but this one point seems like an odd tact.

    1. Hi Greg

      Should have guessed you would have worked on this one. Hope it made a nice boost towards Guns of Eden’s budget.

      Trying to pass the waterfront off as somewhere it’s obviously not, just like all the films with “Vietnam” scenes obviously shot in North American forests is just stupid. If they had even stuck to filming the scene entirely as an interior it might have worked.

      Secondly, the editing was so bad you could tell not only wasn’t it the same building, it wasn’t even the same type of neighbourhood whether you were familiar with the area or not. The fact I was familiar with it may have made it stick out a bit more but it was obvious.

      There’s make believe but making it look good and then there’s just not giving a damn. And as I mentioned about the booby-trapped door and the helicopter crash, they obviously just didn’t give a damn.

  2. Gregory Lee Lamberson

    It’s an interesting and different world on these films, where you have larger crews than on a micro-budget film (but way smaller than on “real” movies), but extremely tight shooting schedules. If you’re shooting a film for hundreds of thousands of dollars in Buffalo, you have to shoot the entire film in Buffalo., except for pickup shots with no actors. With two more days on the schedule, a lot of things would have turned out differently – the economics and pressures of making something like this, with several “name” actors, trump everything else, and I can tell you that everyone on set cared – that’s why we spent 12 days in an unheated hospital with no electricity in December. While I’m not privy to the discussions between the producers and the sales agents, I do know a lot of notes are handed down, which would drive me crazy. Interesting point about the helicopter: it wasn’t in the script, and we didn’t shoot any footage for it, someone decided during the post process to add it. I’m sure it was money people who decided to open with the ending, too – which was not the way it was in the script, and which I feel really hurts the film. It’s sausage factory filmmaking – “We have to shoot 9 pages today to finish!” – but hard, hard work, with so many decisions dictated by the pennies in the bank, not the passion of the director/producer, who has to worry about a million details to finish something like this (and who I can tell you cared a lot). The grain elevators just don’t bother me – I reckon they could easily be in any eastern European country. I’ve worked as a peon on a handful and a half of these things, and think this is one of the better ones, but as I say, I’m not debating anyone’s opinions – I just happen to think that films like this are kind of miraculous from a production standpoint, as every day is a race against the clock and entails so much work on everyone’s part. Thanks for the words on GUNS OF EDEN – we did pretty well with the campaign, and start shooting mid-July. I’ve polished the script over and over, and I think it’s really going to be something. A passion project, for sure.

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