In a not-so-distant future, where one night in one year comes a time when all crime is allowed, that such a move had been sanctioned by the U.S. government. Such a concept is so intriguing that I wanted to know just what could’ve happened that had provoked such a step in society and just what would one do when one lives in such a time and place. The trailers for the “The Purge” had suggested a horror thriller where a family has been caught in such a maelstrom of chaos and disorder. I was thinking that the potentials for such a concept my well be one of the most intense thrilling rides in movie theaters. Sure, I always said that one should look “always look for what the filmmaker is trying to express rather than expect what you want to see in a film“. Well, I looked and looked, and “The Purge” is not the film that I wanted to see.
The year is 2022, where the government of the United States had created a once a year sanctioned event called “The Purge” to drop the crime rate and boost the economy. Under this 12-hour period, there would be no emergency or law enforcement and citizens would be allowed to kill, rape, or whatever suits their desires. During this ‘purge’ event, citizens either go on a crime spree or lock themselves at home to stay safe. James and Mary Sandin (Ethan Hawke, Sinister and Lena Headey, 300) with their children Zoe and Charlie (Adelaide Kane and Max Burkholder respectively) are on lock down and they know the routine. James even made quite a fortune in selling security services because of the ‘purge’ and they know the routine. But when a homeless man (Edwin Hodge) who had been attacked come seeking aid, the youngest son decides to get involved, and now James and his family are in as much trouble as this bloodied homeless man…
A friend who had gone with me to see “Star Trek Into Darkness” told me that writer/director James DeMonaco’s “The Purge” felt somehow similar to an episode of the TV show which had been inspired by the novel “Night of Light”. Now I vaguely remember that episode, but I do have to say that this film had an enormous potential to become one of the more thrilling movies of this year if executed correctly. It would have been grand to create such a fictional world where one night in every year where all crime is permitted and to present all the possible elements involved. Instead, the writing confines its vision within the Sandin residence. All the ‘why’s’ and ‘what’ were answered in the first few minutes of the film, but what it does not do is answer the ‘how’s’ that society had come to accept such an event. The potentials of a strong social commentary become lost, as its main concept becomes abandoned in favor of a ‘home invasion’ script with some themes about moral obligation.
The screenplay definitely had a lot of possible ideas, but for some reason, it chooses to keep itself quiet with its potentials and instead goes loud with some mild graphic violence. The direction chose to limit any further details of the “Purge” event itself that it failed to identify all of its terms. I really was disappointed with the routes the script chose to go. The film does show some potential early on, as we got to get a glimpse of the lives of the Sandins, and once it gets into the second act, it is all about the protagonists trying to live through the night against attackers that resemble those seen in the abysmal “The Strangers”. The Sandins were all bumbling around in the dark with flashlights as they try to get to the root of the cause of their problem. The script uses the youngest child as someone who holds some kind of moral stance, and the homeless man who becomes a form of catalyst for James and Mary to finally find where they stood. It is all about familiar scenes from there, and the way the plot was developed was very uninspired and lazy. It fails to generate tension even when it tries to sell its elements, as the protagonists themselves become caught in a flurry of idiotic moves and decisions.
With characters so shallow, the performances became very limited. I am not saying that Headey and Hawke did not deliver with their portrayals, because they did in a weird sort of way. The two performers managed to sell their rather one-dimensional roles despite major areas of struggling with them. Zoe and Charlie were characters that just made the film make much less sense, and really, this may have been a better movie if Charlie had been removed from the film. Rhys Wakefield’s role as the main antagonist was alright but it was just so based off ‘theatrics’ and the dramatic that he almost felt like he wanted to be The Joker from “The Dark Knight” which made his character a little too much on the ‘trying too hard’ side. The film also had a moment where it felt that it was unintentionally funny, and this was when I rolled my eyes.
Now if what the film failed to achieved in its storytelling in regards to suspense and horror, it did kind of made up for it in its visuals. The rendering of shadows and the subtle trickeries in its cinematography did feel unsettling. The colors and camera shots were able to give off the right mood and tempo. The costumes were alright but they were not used to their fullest potential in the script. The visuals were good, and the ever-present “jump scares” were used to enhance its experience even when the screenplay just fumbled almost everything in the film.
So “The Purge” is a perfect example as to how something with such enormous potential be reduced to what many can say to be ‘lame stream’. The social commentary should have driven its moral stances further if developed properly. Sadly, the writing went to a route that feels a little too ‘safe’ and reduces all its incredible potential as something merely superficial wrapped around the overused mechanics of a home invasion flick. The characters were legendary in making such stupid decisions and this made them rather unsympathetic, and the 'bloodied homeless stranger' who had only 3-4 scenes was more interesting than the protagonists. “The Purge” is a film that wastes all its potentials and becomes a rather empty experience. Nothing to see here but Rent it if you wish. [1 ½ Out of 5 Stars]
By the year 2022 the US government, led by our New Founding Fathers, has managed to crawl its way out of a triple dip recession and record crime rates. Unemployment stands at 1%, and crime is at an all time low. With one exception. Once a year, on a date designated as The Purge, for twelve hours all crime is legal. Rape, murder, theft, the entire US has a free pass to do whatever they wish and suffer no repercussions for it. In a single day thousands are murdered and millions of dollars worth of … more
Though The Purge has a very interesting (though unrealistic) concept, in the end its little more than an interesting idea surrounded by a bad movie. The characters are boring, the direction horrible, and what little social commentary we get is so heavy handed you'll feel like a child being preached to. What ultimately dooms this movie, in my opinion, is that they filmed it as if it were a horror movie, though there is nothing even remotely scary about it. My advice, save this one as a rental and … more