The Purge Review
Once again I am disappointed that a movie with a title so ripe for puns should it prove sucktastic actually being decent. Just rolling into this film I was coming up with hilarious name jokes like “The film wasn’t the only thing in that theater that felt like purging” or “The purge should have started with the writer.” (Anorexia joke courtesy of the Funny T Shirt category) Damn James DeMonaco for being surprisingly talented (the surprise really stems from the fact that the rest of his filmography doesn’t exactly shine like a diamond).
Actually I have hit a long string of decent movies, which means either I’m burning up my good movie karma early and will spend the rest of the year watching films that could be considered a crime against humanity or hit my head a few weeks ago and am lying in a pleasant coma in a hospital somewhere dreaming this life up. Honestly I think I would prefer the later scenario.
Anyway, the Purge. Not bad, really. Kind of Straw Dogs meets Logan’s Run. The story was weirdly believable given the premise and the actions of the main characters more or less made sense (except for a couple of really bad choices early on). On the other hand this film was rancid with social commentary. I don’t think James DeMonaco has much faith in humanity or human nature. Nor does he have much respect for American culture and capitalistic values. This unfortunately divides the audience into three separate camps: the people who agree with him and think this movie is great with an amazing message; the people who vehemently disagree with him and therefore hate this film; and the people who really don’t care and are just trying to watch a film where people shoot each other.
Fortunately I fall into the third camp (along with what I believe to be the majority of the audience). The message is not lost on me. I just think it a little prosaic and ham handed in its delivery.
The film starts off with security system salesman James Sandin (Ethan Hawke-Gattaca, Daybreakers, Training Day) coming home on the eve of the Purge. The Purge is a 12 hour period once a year where all laws and emergency services are suspended and the country either goes out for a chance to hunt down and kill each other or cowers in their houses hoping no one notices them. James has just sold more security systems than anyone else and is ready to start cowering. He comes home to find his wife Mary (Lena Headey-300, Dredd, Game of Thrones) preparing dinner. His younger son Charlie (Max Burkholder-Daddy Day Care, Friends with Money, Parenthood) is a creepy emo kid with a metrosexual haircut and an inclination to making the weirdest looking drone ever. I guess his parents aren’t too hip on the whole “noticing a secret cry for help” business. The daughter Zoey (Adelaide Kane-Goats, Power Rangers R.P.M., Pretty Tough) is super hot but too young for her meat head boyfriend Henry (Tony Oller-As the Bell Rings, Beneath the Darkness, Gigantic), whom she is making out with in her room.
The family buttons down for the night after some typical dysfunctional family stuff (oh, the teenage girl is dissatisfied with her life and her parents! Don’t flatten me with the weight of your originality). Zoey goes upstairs to sulk in her room but finds her boyfriend Henry has hidden in the house. Meanwhile, the son Charlie doesn’t understand the need or validity of the Purge (with good reason. Most of it seems an excuse for rich people to hunt down and execute poor people. There’s that social commentary I mentioned). He sees a homeless man (Edwin Hodge-Die Hard: With a Vengeance, Red Dawn, Big Momma’s House) trying to escape a bunch of young people in masks and opts to let him into the house. Meanwhile Henry tells Zoey that he intends to speak man to man with James but instead pulls a gun to kill him.
These are the three points that stuck out as being really kind of stupid. There is no clear motivation for Charlie to let the guy in, and no comprehension of why James didn’t take more precautions to be sure his 11 year old kid wouldn’t get upset and open the door. Sorry but as much as I may or may not love my hypothetical child until he or she is old enough to drive a car I won’t trust them with anything that could potentially kill my entire family. The third point is how does Henry think killing his girlfriends father going to endear him to her? I am not really that bugged by these as I know 18 year old kids are idiots and parents can often be very trusting of their children, but it was just annoying enough if you know what I mean.
Anyway, James kills Henry just as a gang of creepy mask wearing dudes headed up by their even creepier polite leader (Rhys Wakefield-Santum, the Black Balloon, Home and Away) arrive and demands they cast out the homeless guy. He is hiding somewhere in the house and it is up the the Sandins to find them. They spend time looking for him (Charlie is helping him, BTW) but eventually decide they cannot be part of it and opt to fight the kids.
At that point it’s Straw Dogs all over. The gang breaks in and it’s up to the family to kill them in nice small batches. Everyone has a chance to prove their worth and the neighbors get involved as well.
I have to admit I liked both the premise and the story, social commentary aside. Two stars. The main characters were very believable, if a little underdeveloped. One star. The action was actually pretty good. No one turned into Rambo and each fight was an individual struggle. One star. Rhys Wakefield managed to nail the polite psychopath quite well. One star. She was looking pretty bad in Dredd but I have to say Lena Headley cleans up nicely, and Adelaide Kane is a heart breaker (she’s 23, for those of you who are going to tell me I’m creepy). One star. Overall a fun time watching. Two stars. Total: eight stars.
The black holes.
Very didactic (what does didactic mean? It means you need to go back to school). One black hole. Those three points kind of ground on me. I think had more time been spent on the characters prior to the action they might not have been so annoying. One black hole. Once the premise was set and the action started the movie was fairly predicable. One black hole. Total: three black holes.
A grand total of five stars. Like I said, not bad. Worth your time, especially if you are bored on cheap movie night. Date movie? Not really, especially given how polarizing the message really was. If she happens to belong to the camp that hates this film you can blow off your chance of getting anywhere. Bathroom break? There is an extended sequence where James and Mary are creepy crawling through the house with flashlights looking for the homeless guy while he is trying to find a place to hide that could be skipped with impunity.
Thanks for reading. More to see this weekend, and I hope one of them sucks enough for me to purge (haw!) the built up bile for a change. If I were a betting man I’d bet on White House Down, although it looks like the Heat could give it a run for it’s money. Follow me on Twitter @Nerdkungfu (for the love of God please follow me. I have very few and it makes my ego thump on the inside of my skull). Post comments on this film or my review here, and if you have off topic questions or suggestions feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Talk to you soon.