A tense and compact thriller that makes the most of its plot and cast. Sgt. Jake Roenick (Ethan Hawke), who is recovering from an undercover operation that went horribly wrong, is shutting down an old police precinct station house on New Year's Eve, when a bus taking prisoners to jail gets diverted to the station due to a snowstorm. One of the prisoners is Marion Bishop (Laurence Fishburne), a leading gangster who has just killed a police officer. The precinct comes under siege by a group who want to kill Bishop and anyone else who gets in the way. The film makes the most of the elements it has, the restricted space in the precinct, the need for the prisoners and the police to uneasily cooperate against the external attackers, the escalating nature of the siege and the snowstorm itself. The deft screenplay gives prominence to character development of the cast within the precinct and this gives the situation its force and weight.
Ethan Hawke and Laurence Fishburne are introduced in very well set up sequences that provide the essential motivation for their later actions in the film and gives depth to their desperate alliance. The rest of the cast trapped within the precinct, while essentially secondary, are given enough space and development to be engaging and provide some humour. Gabriel Byrne has the thankless task of proving a human face for the forces laying siege to the precinct. He does his best, the problem is that there is simply no dramatic need for him to be distinct, he just needs to be relentless, he does convey that very well.
This unpretentious thriller with tremendous performances from Ethan Hawke and Laurence Fishburne in particular, the whole cast are excellent, achieves it aims with wit and confidence. Well worth seeking out.