Director: James DeMonaco
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey & Rhys Wakefield
Synopsis: A family is held hostage for harboring the target of a murderous syndicate during the Purge, a 12-hour period in which any and all crime is legalized.
The idea behind The Purge is a good one, legalising crime for one night of the year in order for the public to let themselves go without any threat of repercussion from the law. Unfortunately the idea is really the only good thing about this movie, as what starts off well enough slowly moves into the territory of a great idea badly executed.
We start off with a clever main title sequence where we are shown clips from CCTV footage of people getting beaten up, shootouts, robberies, murder and anything that is illegal. We are then introduced to Ethan Hawke’s character, James Sandin. Sandin is a security salesman, selling the best products to those who can afford it and living in the biggest house on the street because of it.
His wife, Mary Sandin, played by Lena Headey struggles at home, looking after two difficult children and having to take some rather snarky comments from the neighbours. The Sandin children, Zoey and Charlie are an odd combination. Charlie is young and finds the idea of The Purge disturbing, whilst Zoey is attracting an older boys attention by wearing the sluttiest schoolgirls uniform ever. Her boyfriend, Henry, is also apparently Spider-Man, as he can get to her second story bedroom without so much as a ladder in sight.
The Sandin’s are a dysfunctional family. They all seem to have their little quirks and habits. Young Charlie has a thing for spying on people, with the help of a half burnt baby-doll seemingly fixed to a remote-controlled car he has managed to create his own little mobile CCTV vehicle, which sends a feed to his glasses. Ethan Hawke’s father figure is clearly worked obsessed and has no problem with The Purge or what goes on outside his own home.
Of course, it is what’s outside their home that soon becomes the problem. After locking down their home for the night, Charlie is left alone to watch the CCTV cameras littered around the outside of the house, only to witness a homeless man running away from, as of yet, unidentified attackers. Charlie, being the sensible lad he is takes sympathy and lets a complete stranger into the house.
As this is happening, Zoey’s boyfriend has managed to get back into her bedroom, she thinks her luck is in, but it turns out he is there to talk to her father, man to man, about their relationship. Henry, the classy man that he is, decides the best way to resolve his issues with Zoey’s father is to turn a gun on him and attempt to murder him, it is the night of The Purge after all. Chaos ensues and all sense of order is lost.
To further ruin the Sandin’s night, the mystery man hiding in their house has been tracked down by his pursuers. I’m still not sure how they knew exactly which house he was in though, it seemed like a pretty big neighbourhood and he had a good head start on them all. Anyway, those following him want him back and make their desires quite clearly known to the Sandin’s. A game of cat and mouse develops inside quite possibly the biggest house I have ever seen, as the Sandin’s try to find the runaway.
The strangers outside grow impatient and when the Sandin’s eventually refuse to hand over their captive, the strangers decide they will break the doors down and get him themselves.
The Purge falls apart on many levels. The acting is weak, with many seeming to be on auto pilot, the script is also well below par and I have trouble believing any family, even the most dysfunctional, would converse with each other the way the Sandin’s do.
My biggest problem with this movie though, was the sheer stupidity on display. I know and fully adhere to suspending your disbelief in any movie, but with The Purge it became a constant bugbear and I struggled to believe the actions of those in front of me. Who deals with the aftermath of these yearly events, is the cost of the cleanup not counter intuitive to the governments national finances, if there are no police then why do the attackers wear masks, why is Charlie so annoying, what do you do if you take ill during The Purge, is this not just The Strangers, why can the best security system money can buy be pulled apart by a few teenagers with a tow truck? I could go on, but I feel I have made my point.
The blame for this should land at the feet of those who created this movie, they came up with a fantastic idea but failed significantly in carrying it passed the stage of just being a good idea, and instead carried out a routine siege movie with no sense of tension and absolutely no payoff whatsoever.
In summary: A brilliant idea that the creators failed to capitalise on. Badly acted and poorly written, The Purge is a wasted opportunity.