Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Purge (2013)

**This review contains spoilers**

In 2022, America is prospering by reaching all-time lows for unemployment and crime rates. The catch? Each year, willing American citizens participate in The Purge, an annual event where all crime, including savage beatings, torture, and murder are legal within a twelve hour period. All emergency services are suspended within the twelve hour period, so American citizens can cleanse themselves of the hatred, aggression, and rage built up inside of them.

In a suburban community, James Sandin (Ethan Hawke), a successful salesman for home security systems that protect unwilling Americans from bloodthirsty Purge enthusiasts, prepares his family for The Purge. Placing a bouquet of blue flowers (blue flowers signify support for The Purge) in front of the house, James lectures his bratty teenage daughter, Zoey (Adelaide Kane) and his young son, Charlie (Max Burkholder), while his wife, Mary (Lena Headey) tries to back him up. Charlie questions the morals behind The Purge, and unbeknownst to James and Mary, Zoey’s older boyfriend, Henry (Tony Oller) snuck into the house during lockdown.

During the early stages of The Purge, when he finally reveals himself, Henry tries to kill James, so he can be with Zoey without any problems, but James fires back with his own gun during the shootout, killing Henry. Although, Henry’s death becomes a minor problem, when Charlie makes a risky choice. Noticing a homeless man and former US soldier begging for help and shelter, Charlie disarms the security system, giving him a chance to come inside the house. But after a few inside tips from unidentified neighbors, The Purge group tracking the homeless man surround at the Sandin’s home, and the leader delivers an ultimatum: The Sandin’s have one hour to release the homeless man, or he will lead his group into the house to kill the homeless man, and the entire Sandin family. 

As usual, Ethan Hawke is a competent leading man. Nothing spectacular, but I always give Hawke credit for being able to hold his own without too much help. Lena Headey provides the most noteworthy performance from the supporting cast. I REALLY want to give more credit to Rhys Wakefield (the clean cut lunatic and prep school kid, who leads his Purge group, and he delivers the ultimatum, aka the guy smiling with the mask in the peephole POV in the trailers and TV spots), but once The Purge group breaks into the house, his character loses a lot of steam. Wakefield had so much potential as the delightful murderer, but this character gets caught up, and eventually lost in the whirlwind of social commentary and The Sandin’s fight for survival.

So murder can solve all of our problems? That’s a flawed message, and James DeMonaco (the writer and director) did a good job of covering this problem from different perspectives. When you get to the core of motivations for different characters participating in The Purge, the answer is the same on all fronts: everyone is using The Purge to feed and justify their own selfish and animalistic desires. The rich snobs, who are trying to kill the homeless man, feel like they’re providing a service to society by getting rid of the homeless “pigs.” Motivated by jealousy, neighbors try and use The Purge as the perfect cover to kill off the entire Sandin family for James’ financial success. And during the beginning, an angry and disgruntled employee brags about his plans to kill his boss on a radio show.

IF The Purge didn’t fall into a predictable step by step process, I would go with a higher score. I’ll give DeMonaco credit for throwing in a nice twist at the very end, but once James decides to do the right thing and fight, you kind of get a good feeling for where the story is going to go. And on top of all that, you can see every “learned lesson” coming from a mile away.

Still, I really enjoyed The Purge as a home invasion thriller. They’re few, far, and between, but DeMonaco provides a handful of hard-hitting and bloody action sequences. More importantly, it’s not an ordinary and boring “random group of weirdos break into a house to torment, and eventually murder the innocent victims” home invasion thriller. The Purge TRIES to be something different, with DeMonaco using the setting of a dystopian America, and forcing everyone into a lawless hellhole to fight for survival.

The Purge was a nice surprise for me, but I have very LOW expectations for the planned sequel. Sorry, but the premise feels like a one and done type of deal to me. Also, I’m shocked another quality film (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2003 and the Friday The 13th remake are my other two picks. Although, others might throw Pain & Gain into the mix.) came out of Michael Bay’s shit factory of a production company known as Platinum Dunes.

Rating: 8/10

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