Movie Review: The Purge (2013)
The Purge is essentially a home invasion thriller resting on an extremely far-fetched but chilling premise: every year, for 12 hours only, the United States government deems any criminal activity, including theft, rape and murder, to be legal. The rationale behind the Purge is that the world would be a much more peaceful place if humans are allowed to release their inner, animalistic rage, even if it’s just once a year. Indeed, in the opening sequence to the film, set in the near future, we are told that unemployment is at 1% and that crime levels are at the lowest they’ve ever been.
Ethan Hawke plays a successful security systems salesman married to Lena Headey (seriously, after Game of Thrones, who would want to mess with her?). Together they have two children — a rebellious teenage daughter played by rising Aussie star Adelaide Kane, and a creepy younger son played by Max Burkholder. They are the lucky ones because they are relatively well off, and can afford a security system to keep their family safe during the Purge. Or so they thought. Well, I guess it’s obvious something goes horribly wrong, or else it would make one very boring movie.
The Purge has its moments, even though it was frustrating at times because of the usual irrational human behaviour that has seemingly become a prerequisite for thrillers these days. But tonally the film is unsettling, and the threat of brutal violence keeps audiences on their toes.
I’m still not quite sure what to make of the cliched mask-wearing, knife-wielding deranged yuppies that represent the central antagonists in the film (that totally rip off the killers from the forgotten 2008 Liv Tyler film, The Strangers). Yes, they are creepy, but their attire and behaviour feel contrived, as though they were simply designed that way so they can creep people out but hold no other purpose or meaning.
The key to enjoying The Purge is accepting the implausible premise. If you can suspend disbelief and just pretend it is real, then the movie works as a tense, violent, psychotic home invasion movie about a man who would do anything to protect his family.
That said, the film never really addresses the whole concept of the Purge adequately from a moral, political, psychological or sociological perspective. There are a few fleeting attempts, but on the whole it feels like the waste of a fascinating idea. Take away the Purge concept and the film would probably work nearly just as well as a straight-up home invasion movie.
It’s a shame, because the potential for something special was there, but in the end The Purge will likely end up being just another forgotten thriller on our DVD racks.
3 stars out of 5