The Purge Review: A Grotesque Misfire
Many would probably like to argue the concept of the new Ethan Hawke thriller, The Purge is an intriguing satirical story in which a question of morality is brought to the forefront. In reality, the film is one that ignores the many questions and problems that could arise from the world created by the story and develops the feature into a standard, ultra-violent, horror flick. The direction the film decided to take makes what should have been a film that was more of a distopian sci-fi film, an empty and dreadful experience that fails to ask important questions while at the same time failing to provide anything other than a mindless, gruesome murderfest.
The premise of The Purge is quite simple. Once a year, there is a 12 hour period of time in which crime is essentially legal (although at the start of the purge time in the film there are a few restrictions made apparent). This time is supposed to be used for the purposes of letting out pent up aggression and anger, so naturally there are a lot of people who want to commit murder. The audience is supposed to believe this 12 hour purge period is the reason there is now no crime in the United States after the concept was implemented by the government.
Putting aside the misconception that crime no longer exists if you allow for a period where all crime is legal (something this film has no problems doing), the film is loaded with untaken risks and unasked questions, lightly touching on the disadvantages inherent in poverty and glancing at the morality of allowing tons of crime to happen in one night so the government can measure crime in a different way.
The film centers around James Sandin (Hawke), a security system salesman who has had a big sales year because of the purge, and his family (consisting of his wife, played by Lena Headey, and his two kids). He and his family put the home in lockdown with one of his security systems and plan to spend the night in piece, when James’ son decides to let a stranger into the home. It turns out there are a bunch of rich, over-priviledged kids wanting to murder the man, who happens to be an African-American homeless man. According to these rich, educated kids, it is their right to “weed out” the “weaker” people in society. So, naturally, they decide to terrorize the Sandin family.
The blatancy of the film comes as almost an insult to this particular viewer. Trying to incorporate some sort of overwrought message of morality in a film so blatant and appallingly violent (we’ll get to the violence in a second) is a slap in the face to the intelligence of an audience, and The Purge is one of the many films that seems to be confused as it seems to support the very ideas that the empty vocal messages in the same film try to speak out against (it seemed fitting the trailer to Kick-Ass 2 was paired with the screening).
The Purge is a film that requires the audience to suspend disbelief in an almost unreasonable manner, and seems to be focused on the question of “would the purge actually” work instead of the inherent dilemmas within the concept itself. It’s a film that wants to be hopeful and interesting, but at every turn decides to trends towards the hopeless and dull aspects. It’s a film that quickly becomes more interested in killing people in unnecessary violent ways (if you shoot somebody in the head, is it really necessary to shoot them 3 or 4 more times in the chest?).
Keep in mind, this is not a horribly made film as far as atmosphere goes and the performances are not to blame for the dreadful experience that is created here. The film doesn’t create any suspense organically as it seems to be more focused on getting to the killing and letting darkness and jump scares do most of the work. It’s a film that lightly glazes over some obvious political issues which are put into the film so it appears the movie has something to say, when really the film is all about violence, death, and not much else.
What do you think? Leave a comment.