Movie Review: “The Purge”

1half-starJames DeMonaco’s “The Purge” is a bloody-minded, heavy-handed satire of life within these violent United States. It’s a horror film with the occasional visceral thrill — the fear of being hunted, the excitement of righteous violence against nameless intruders. But mostly, it’s just a clumsy lecture about who we’re becoming, haves vs have-nots, with the haves armed to the teeth.
In the not-distant future, “the New Founding Fathers” have decreed America has one night of catharsis when we can give in to our most violent impulses. Murder and mayhem abound and first responders have the night off.
Basically, you’re on your own for “The Purge.” The well-off can hunt the homeless, the “weak” and those who don’t contribute to society. Or just seek revenge. Others whom we’ll call “rich liberals” buy massive security systems and hunker down in their fortress McMansions for the night.
Ethan Hawke plays one of the latter, a salesman who’s gotten rich off selling armored security systems. Lena Headey plays his resigned-to-this-yearly “Purge” wife. Max Burkholder and Adelaide Kane play the sensitive son and hormonal daughter whose trusting natures would thwart any security system.
Because Zoe (Kane) has let the boyfriend Dad forbids her to see into the house, and Charlie rescues a homeless vet (Edwin Hodge), saving him from a hunt. And that brings vengeful preppies (led by Rhys Wakefield) who were stalking him down on their happy home.
DeMonaco seems awfully concerned that we won’t “get” his points here, so there’s repetitious 24 hour TV coverage about how it is time to “release the beast and purge our American streets,” debates over the morality of it, how “culling” society lowers unemployment and helps the economy.
You can see what Hawke and Headey saw in this, the chance to make a statement for compassion and humanity in the face of the social Darwinism –an America remade in the NRA and Tea Party’s image — that might create a night like this.
“We can afford protection. We’ll be fine.”
But lapses in logic and characterization trip it up at every turn. This Charlie kid seems to have a death wish, and a sense of removal from his supposed compassion that undercuts his supposed motivation.The boyfriend is underdeveloped. The family is armed, but their “plan” of defense laughably involves splitting up and searching for the wounded homeless man in their pitch-black house.
The reliably believable Hawke has had good luck in horror in recent years (“Sinister”,”Daybreakers) but his instincts fail him here. “The Purge” is an 85 minute chore that tediously plays like a real-time recreation of the night of The Purge — all twelve hours of it.
The Purge
MPAA Rating:  R for strong disturbing violence and some language
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey, Max Burkholder, Edwin Hodge, Rhys Wakefield
Credits: Written and directed by James DeMonaco. A Universal release.
Running time: 1:25
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10 Responses to Movie Review: “The Purge”

  1. Andy Geleff says:

    You could have put your silly “NRA and Tea Party” banter in the beginning of this review and saved me three minutes. What a waste of time.

  2. DagnerMouse says:

    No. No it isn’t. They don’t state that, and it’s clear from your response that you’ve never encountered and engaged actual NRA and Tea Party ideas and members. Neither of those groups is primarily supportive of social Darwinism, by and large, and certainly not to the extent this film presents. More honest to say it’s a reflection of the caricature of the NRA and Tea Party which the media by and large perpetuates, as if there aren’t actual legitimate and reasoned differences of opinions in the mix. You do a disservice to your readers by perpetuating shallow and ill-informed stereotypes. One might argue that lapses in logic and characterization have tripped you up. Regardless, after seeing a screening of this movie, and beyond that unwarranted snipe, I completely agree with you on all other points about this donkey of a film. In the end, however, I thank you for your honest evaluation and for your opinions and the expressing thereof. Keep on keeping on, and we’ll see you at the movies!

    • Why do you think “The Purge” picked up a hat full of endorsements from lefty publications? This motif about America as embodied by the message of the far right is out there for all to see. It’s Ok that you missed it, but don’t assume I did.

  3. Not the best review… I’m going to look at some other sites.

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