The problem with The Purge is that the filmmakers take a great idea and turn it into a basic home invasion flick.
The Purge, a new film starring Ethan Hawke, is a great example of taking an interesting idea and dumbing it down. The idea is interesting; one day a year for 12 hours during what is called the Purge, all crime is deemed legal. The problem with The Purge is that the filmmakers take that great idea and turn it into a basic home invasion flick.
Hawke plays James Sandin, an owner of a business that provides security for homes in the L.A. area. It’s a year round business, but it’s obvious he makes most of his money just before the annual Purge. His entire neighborhood is equipped with his product. His wife Mary, Lena Headey, is just a regular suburbanite house wife, however, is surprisingly the best part of the film.
The Sandin’s have two kids, a son named Charlie (Max Burkholder) and a daughter named Zoey (Adelaide Kane). Charlie mostly keeps to himself and as it turns out is the most empathetic person of the family. When we first meet Zoey she is in the middle of a romantic tryst with her boyfriend. The film hints that Zoey’s parents do not approve of this relationship, but unsurprisingly this plot point concerning it goes nowhere. In fact, it leads to an incident that quite literally doesn’t make any sense.
Once the Purge begins, the Sandin’s house (along with every house in the wealthy neighborhood) goes into complete lockdown. Metal bars slam over windows and even their front door is encased in steel. The film gets interesting when Charlie ventures into the security room of the house and sees a man running down the street crying out for help. The man stops in front of the Sandin’s home and Charlie’s heart outplays his brain. He lets down the house’s guard for less than a minute; more than enough time for the stranger to enter their home.
As soon as the stranger thinks he is safe, a mysterious group emerges from darkness. They have been chasing the man all the way to the Sandin’s home. How many of them is never made clear. It seems like once the film kills off one of them, three more appear. They demand the Sandin’s release their target and they will be unharmed. Of course, James doesn’t have the heart to do it, so a siege is laid upon the household and that’s when things get messy.
The film turns into a violent and disgusting home invasion movie. The final 45 minutes of The Purge is essentially one brutal murder after another. I generally don’t have a problem with violence, but this concept deserves better than just mindless violence. Some stuff didn’t make sense to me. One obvious example is that the villains in the film wore masks. Why? I don’t know. Being that murder is legal for 12 hours, hiding your identity is meaningless; except of course if you’re in a horror movie and it’s supposed to be creepy or scary. Another plot point at the end is just ludicrous. I won’t reveal what happens, but let’s just say it adds nothing to the movie except for 10 more minutes of useless screen time.
The Purge isn’t all bad. The direction is fine and the mood established once the actual Purge starts is undeniable. One small thing I liked was that James Sandin wasn’t an idiot. He thinks he’s killed three assailants and instead of walking away, he puts one shot in each of them with his shotgun just to make sure. Small detail I know. But it’s one that I can appreciate. Hawke also has the great ability of looking like a movie star, yet at the same time, pulls off the everyman shtick. But even Hawke can’t save this from being a below standard mess.