Ethan Hawke fights off home invaders on a night where all crime is legal in the new thriller The Purge! But is it a nerve-wracking good time or a limp disappointment? 411's Jeffrey Harris checks in with his review!
Directed By: James DeMonaco Written By: James DeMonaco Runtime: 85 minutes MPAA Rating: Rated R
James Sandin - Ethan Hawke Mary Sandin - Lena Headey Charlie Sandin - Max Burkholder Zoey Sandin - Adelaide Kane Bloody Stranger - Edwin Hodge Polite Stranger - Rhys Wakefield Henry - Tony Oller
The new horror movie The Purge is one-part The Strangers, another part Straw Dogs, and lastly a part from an episode of the original Star Trek series, “Return of the Archons.” So in the future (2022 to be exact), the American government has legalized all crime. However this can only happen for a 12 hour period one night a year, referred to as “The Purge.”
The Purge is in no way original. It’s a clunky B-horror movie with a thin, predictable plot, nonsensical dialogue, and characters doing and saying things that make no sense. James Sandin (Hawke) is a rich security systems designer. He’s designed the systems for his nice, upper-crust gated community, but his neighbors quietly seethe at how rich he’s gotten off them. Sandin and his wife Mary (Headey) respect the Purge and the good that it does for the country, but they still like to hunker down and not participate and observe every year. Their teenage daughter Zoey (Kane) is grumpy because her parents don’t approve of her older 18-year-old boyfriend, Henry (Oller). Their younger son, Charlie Burkholder), doesn’t understand the Purge nor why his family doesn’t want to kill people.
Things go badly when a homeless stranger (Hodge) is being hunted by a bunch of preppy, white college kids led by their “educated” leader (Wakefield). Charlie decides to help the stranger and lets him into the house. At the same time, Henry has snuck in and tries to shoot down James. Henry gets shot, and everyone is separated for almost the entire first half of the movie. So the preppy kids are ticked off since they don’t get to kill a homeless guy who they see as a blight on society. You see the movie tries to preach that only the rich, privileged people are to partake on the purge and this helps control the population to get rid of the homeless people. How the movie is able to come to this conclusion and a future where this apparently eliminates crime to 1% and improve the economy . . . well hey, it’s a movie.
Unfortunately, the premise is so goofy and ridiculous, it’s hard to suspend disbelief and go with the story. It’s isolated to the Sandin family and their home for the night during its 85 minute running time. The only other semblances you get of what’s going on elsewhere are some vague news reports and camera footage of dead bodies and random murders. The movie spends so much time trying to build tension that it becomes boring. Half the movie is spent wandering around the Sandin home with the family looking for either each other or the bloody stranger. At first James and Mary think if they give up the stranger, the preppy kids will take him and go away. However, then they realize what they are doing is “wrong” and instead of killing the stranger . . . they decide to defend themselves and kill all the preppy kids after they are able to disable the security system and break into their home.
Most of the characters of the movie are unlikable if not as stupid as doormats, especially the Sandin kids. After Henry gets shot, everyone goes crazy and runs around everywhere, and then no one can find each other. Charlie gets his creepy little robot tank and uses it to communicate in Morse code to the stranger (he has dog tags so he’s a veteran of course) to lead him to a hiding place. Zoey finds the robot and tells her brother she’s going to the same hiding place (uh oh). So of course she gets caught by the stranger who has a knife. Their house is big, but it’s hardly a mansion. The story never really addresses what was going on with Henry. Much of what happens is unresolved and the movie ends on a rather unfulfilling note.
The movie plays like a type of commentary on the 1% picking on the 99%, but with the story’s premise and the way it’s executed, it comes off in an extremely clunky, preachy, and awkward fashion. The Purge itself doesn't come as some sort of anarchic catharsis, but rather a way for the rich class to keep the poor class in line. For some reason, rich people are the only ones that attain weapons and want to commit murder. But how such a period is even able to eliminate crime and keep mankind in check really makes no sense and is never truly explained. The writer/director James DeMonaco telegraphs all the cheap scares. He shoots everything in such tight, close quarters that it’s even hard to see what you are supposed to be scared of.
The 411: The Purge is a stupid, unfulfilling, and weak horror movie. If you are a horror afficionado it's really worth a rental at best. This is not worth seeing in the theaters at current prices. This is a B-movie with a derivative, unbelievable B-plot and characters that it totally fails to sell.