The Purge is an interesting movie in that it was enjoyable for all the wrong reasons. That is not to say that the film is poorly made or that there are poor performances, but it seems, at least to me and those that were in the theater with me – that much of the film did not come off as it was supposed to.
The setting is the not so distant future. Poverty is just about unheard of. Unemployment is at an amazing 1%. The economy is stable and crime in America is nearly non-existent. In the opening of the film we are treated to a barrage of news audio and video in which the subject is the annual purge, which is credited with saving the country and bringing prosperity to the masses. What we come to find is that the “New Founders” have designated twelve hours during one day a year where crime – even murder – is not illegal. This is the purge. The opportunity to purge the hatred, anger and villainy that is poisoning your soul without consequence.
The story is centered on one particular family for whom the purge has brought particularly high levels of prosperity. Of course this prosperity comes through the sales of – security systems. See in this world, home invasion is not illegal, so the well prepared person is the safe person. However what this does is bring a notable imbalance between the haves and the have nots. Not everyone can afford a fancy home security and more often than not, these are the victims of those who go “hunting” to purge their souls. For James Sandin and family this year they have to put their money where their mouths are when one of his children ill-advisedly brings a stranger into their home to save his life, only to make his family the target of the hunters pursuing him. You may think I am giving the film away, but this is just what you’ve been told in the trailers.
The film had lots of suspense, but it also had more laughs than I believe it was supposed to. There were many beats in the movie that were just comical in just how far from reality they really were. Ethan Hawke put in a fine performance as does the rest of the cast, but some of the writing is – well, just off. There is a red herring or two that make you look for a twist that isn’t coming (or is it?). The story does not drag and there is quite a bit going on. I would say the big miss here is the dialogue.
Writer/Director James DeMonaco really screwed the pooch on what could have been either an great piece of satire or a real in depth commentary on the current state of society. Instead we get a poorly stitched together story with talented actors that come across as cardboard caricatures of an over-entitled upper middle class. I generally am a fan of anything Ethan Hawke is in, but this one puts that to the test. While I still think it is an entertaining movie, all of the out of place laughs really made for a disappointing and lackluster “day in the life of” film. The surprise ending of the film solicits less of a surprise than a “heh, figures” kind of moment.
The action in the film is your typical slasher fare attempting to mask itself in less than witty banter and 1980’s horror imagery. At the end of the day, I’d say wait for this to come out on dvd. If you are looking for a serious film, this movie will likely make you want to – well, Purge.
You can check out the trailer below.