Far from Purge-fect
The Purge is directed by James DeMonaco and stars Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey, Adelaide Kane, and Max Burkholder.
One thing is clear about The Purge: it consists of two different movies where you have no idea where the first one ends and the other one begins. Somewhere in the midst of a brief 85 minutes, there is a transition from capable social commentary to generic horror bloodbath. And after thinking it over enough, I think it comes when Ethan Hawke says the line, "We fight" to a distraught Lena Headey, because once that line is spoken and everyone agrees to it, we have reached a point of no return. The Purge takes this unfortunate plunge just when it was at the height of its potential, diving into a red-soaked pool of guns and violence that is not necessary to get its overall point across.
That point being the reasoning behind the annual event that is The Purge: a 12-hour period held annually in which all crime, including murder, is considered legal. Police and hospitals are unavailable during the 12-hour Purge. It is explained that The Purge was an amendment passed in 2014 by a newly sworn in political party called The New Founding Fathers of America. The first Purge takes place in 2017, and by 2022, The Purge has resulted in a stable economy and unemployment rates falling to below 1%. So what is the motivation behind The Purge? As explained by Purgers and various doctors being interviewed throughout the film, The Purge is a means of people releasing all of their pent-up anger and frustration at the world, cleansing their souls and inner beings of all hateful thoughts and violent ambitions.
The plot is a home-invasion story centered on the Sandin family during the 2022 Purge. James Sandin (Ethan Hawke) is a salesmen for advanced security systems that are specifically designed for the annual Purges. James, his wife Mary (Lena Headey), and their two children Charlie (Max burkholder) and Zoey (Adelaide Kane) lock themselves in for the night, but a chain of events begin to unfold when Charlie decides to let a strange black man (Edwin Hodges) into the house, and Zoey's boyfriend Henry (Tony Oller) sneaks in.
- The thing is, I was really pulling for the movie during its first half, most of which is spent on discussing what is meant behind the Purge and why or why not someone would participate in it. There's at least some insight into how people may differ when asked about their thoughts on the less fortunate people in this cruel world of ours. Is it our duty to help these people live the best lives as they can, or can we not truly prosper as long as these flood our streets with their misfortune? But, alas, that leads me to my low points...
- Here's the main problem with The Purge: it doesn't work. For one, there is just no feasible way in which one 12-hour period a year in which people can commit crimes can possibly quell all of the economic and unemployment issues that top government officials work on daily trying to fix. How in the world can just one night in which people can unleash all of their rage and frustrations go about being the ultimate cure for the economy and unemployment? According to the movie, it's a way for the world to eliminate all of the obstacles holding back the economy and the US from truly thriving. Because the homeless, unemployed, sick, and elderly are all just so useless, we should just kill all of them to make the world a better place. That's a notion that isn't just horribly nonsensical, it's also straight-up unethical. You can see what The Purge was going for in its attempt at commenting on how we could maybe go about solving some of America's biggest problems. It's all just wasted potential.
- The Purge could've been a passable outlook on something like the battle of rich vs. poor, but it loses all momentum in a series of violent killings that you just know are coming. I actually think The Purge would've been a much better movie had there been little to no violence at all. There was a lot more mileage out of just watching the Sandin family remain in their house and witness the terror going on outside, which is kind of what we get in the beginning. Maybe the Sandin family members all could have conflicting thoughts on The Purge, and it would take them the entirety of the film to reach an agreement. But of course, something has to happen with the plot, because who wants to watch nothing but a family spend the night in their house, doing nothing but look scared and talk about why The Purge is happening?
You can see it. It's there. It's right there for the taking, but, damn it, James DeMonaco does not capitalize on a golden opportunity to make what could've been a thought-provoking and interesting horror film. You can see flashes of a great horror film during the first half, until everything but the kitchen sink gets thrown out the window when The Purge decides to settle on bloody and almost unnecessary violence. Some people might look at this film like a satire, since it shows a lot of video clips of Purge killings, poking fun at our love of witnessing violence on camera. It doesn't really matter, because everything comes off the rails after a promising start, and The Purge comes to an end not fully realizing what it could've been.
Recommend? It's worth a watch if you're bored someday.
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