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.
Written & Directed by James DeMonaco
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey, and Max Burkholder
In 2022, the government approves of a 12 hour yearly “purge”. In order to keep America’s crime low and its unemployment at 1%, all citizens are encouraged to take part in the brutal ritual that allows us to exercise our innermost demons. I’m still not sure how letting everyone murder homeless people and your girlfriend’s dad will make the country work flawlessly for the next 364 days of the year. I don’t know about you, but it would be awkward if my neighbor was shooting Mexicans one minute and talking Netflix at my mailbox the rest of the year. While I can appreciate the crux of this exercise, especially the more time I spend with the public, but, really?
Mr. Sandlin (Hawke). is a successful home security salesman with his finger on the market’s Purge pulse. Recently named salesman of the year, Sandlin’s elegant mansion is the focal point of the neighborhood since everyone owns one of Sandlin’s security systems. His upper crust family is appalled by the idea of The Purge, something they later stumble over repeatedly. What disappoints me the most about the film is the raw potential that was wasted. The politicizing of The Purge makes for a clever film, and paints the backdrop for some certain insanity. Sadly, this movie fumbles the ball constantly, never seeming to know how its characters are pieced together – something inevitable with no characterization. The family is unlikable to a fault, not necessarily making us dislike them, but never really giving us a reason to root in their favor.
Much like the characters, the home and overall look of the film are very sterile and cold, there isn’t an ounce of warmth on the screen. Terrible dialogue flows freely at times, and the acting is less than inspired. Hawke usually has decent roles, and I’m a fan of his, but his delivery in this home invasion failure was flat to me, once again, lacking any real warmth. I think the film’s complex worldview was an interesting one, and pretty much the angle that got me to the theater, but the family spends so much time with its liberal murder-never-works position, that it becomes terribly watered down. The Purge contained some nice dark of night fight scenes, and that’s about it. If you must see this, wait for the DVD.