Film Review “The Purge”

PRG_31_5_Promo_4C_4F.inddStarring: Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey, Rhys Wakefield
Directed by: James Demanaco
Rated: R
Running time: 85 minutes
Universal

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

It sounds like a sweet deal…unemployment is at 1% and crime is at its lowest ever. As long as you exclude the Purge, 12 hours of the year where mayhem reigns supreme. The year is 2022 and the only significant differences are that we have new founding fathers who’ve lead America on a new path of enlightenment; one that is gleefully coated with blood. For half a day in the month of March, starting at 7 p.m., all emergency services are suspended and all crimes are made legal, including murder. This begs multiple questions in the first couple minutes of the movie. What happened in America for the solution of our problems to be a murder-thon? Can a night of carnage really be worth 364 days of peace and prosperity? Is the Purge just a huge excuse to eradicate those deemed poor and useless by society? Well, we’re just gonna have to ignore those questions.

After a very simplistic explanation of the Purge, we meet James Sandin (Ethan Hawke). He lives in the largest house in his upper middle class neighborhood. We then meet his lovely wife Mary (Lena Headey), his teenage, school girl outfit wearing daughter, Zoey (Adelaide Kane) and his loner oddball son Charlie (Max Burkholder). I’m surprised there wasn’t a golden retriever named Max to complete this family. After the introduction of our soon to be victims, we go through the motions of a dinner and conversation. Even when the family locks down the home and the Purge begins, the family just goes through the motions. Of course this would be a boring movie if everything went according to plan. The young Charlie watches in horror on the home’s security cameras as a ragged bleeding man pleads for his life (Edwin Hodge). As the only character with a conscience, it’s up to Charlie to let the unknown man in and give the movie some excitement. A mob of masked people arrive outside the home. Only one of the mysterious assailants takes off his mask to talk directly to the family. This polite and well-spoken lunatic (Rhys Wakefield) tells the family to hand over the “filthy homeless pig” and be spared. Or suffer the consequences when they rip the protective metal sheets off the house.

Before this movie began, it had two paths to choose from. A futuristic movie that went over the social ideas of class warfare and America’s obsession with violence or it could have been a violent fist pumping good time. I give credit to writer/director James Demanaco for going straight down the middle of these two paths. He drops little hints of problems within our own society, but not enough to nauseate us. He also manages to sprinkle in some suspense before giving us the blood splattering good time we know is coming. The acting by the two leads isn’t anything spectacular, but it isn’t terrible. There are plenty of things that prevent this movie from becoming the fantastic thriller I know it could have been. Our main characters aren’t fleshed out and lack sufficient background to care about their plight. It’s amazing how the first half of this movie has no character development. There’s also the questionable motives by the family, the crazed intruders and even the bloody stranger. My review could have easily been a list of questions directed at each character’s actions.

But as the film wound down and I realized those nagging questions weren’t going to be answered, I turned off the thought processes in my brain and enjoyed the flick. With false scares and jump out of your seat moments, it’s a fun little movie. Even though the pacing at the beginning is a bit off, the final 30 minutes of this movie had every eye in the audience glued to the screen. I have to admit though that one final question popped into my head as the crowd cheered on the suburban family fighting back against their intruders. How many people are watching this and thinking the Purge actually wouldn’t be a bad idea? Is it really that far-fetched to assume citizens would approve of a concept like the Purge? These questions were solidified as applause arose from the crowd as an axe was violently driven into someone’s spine. Considering I’ll never be able to afford the security system in this movie or last in a dystopian future like this, I don’t think these are questions I want answered.

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