In an America wracked by crime and overcrowded prisons, the government has sanctioned an annual 12-hour period in which any and all criminal activity-including murder-becomes legal. The police can't be called. Hospitals suspend help. It's one night when the citizenry regulates itself without thought of punishment. On this night plagued by violence and an epidemic of crime, one family wrestles with the decision of who they will become when a stranger comes knocking. When an intruder breaks into James Sandin's (Ethan Hawke) gated community during the yearly lockdown, he begins a sequence of events that threatens to tear a family apart. Now, it is up to James, his wife, Mary (Lena Headey), and their kids to make it through the night without turning into the monsters from whom they hide.
Directed by: James DeMonaco
. Starring: Ethan Hawke
, Lena Headey
, Max Burkholder
, Adelaide Kane
, Edwin Hodge
, Rhys Wakefield
, Tony Oller
, Arija Bareikis
, Tom Yi
, Chris Mulkey
, Tisha French
, Dana Bunch
, Peter Gvozdas
. Music by: Nathan Whitehead
The subject of Man still being just a killer animal deep down is one that has fascinated writers throughout the ages, and increasingly in the modern world, where we in the West have achieved a lifestyle of such mundane safety and freedom from risk that we fall almost into a malaise, a spiritual deadness, requiring a sudden jolt of violence to wake us up.
From "Dr Moreau" to "Lord of the Flies" to "Cape Fear" to "Straw Dogs" to "Death Wish" to "Hunger Games" we've seen this theme fuelling dark and disturbing polemic tales. What better victims of this cruel revelation than the perfect, successful, All-American middle class professional family, their safe little castle prone to sudden violation from the forces of savagery without and within? Add to that then a frightening dystopian future world as a grisly mirror of where we are heading now, in this case why not a law that makes all crime legal in the U.S.A for one night of the year that allows us to purge all the vent up anger and frustration for the rest of the year? OK, that's actually a pretty stupid concept which has a thousand holes in it once you think about, not least of which is that no government and certainly no population would ever consider such a thing, especially in a year or two (this is set in 2023 and "The Purge" has been running for years already)
From this clichéd but still quite rich vein you could take the story in a hundred different fascinating directions. You could make a Judge DreddRobocop-esque satire on violence in the shiny corporate new world, you could make it the tale of a person who has repressed their anger all their life suddenly bursting it forth and finding they enjoy it, you could show violence and brutality as a social leveller, eliminating all supposed differences of caste, creed and society to show us all as the same animal beneath, you could show someone who refuses to become the monster even when everyone else has, clinging onto that faint wisp of civilization in uncivil times, you could make it a terrifying nihilistic nightmare in which those used to comfortable life find themselves facing uncontrolled brutality within the walls of their safe little home, the layers of their illusory state peeling away before them with more terror than any maniac could bring, you could make unlikable middle class bourgeoisie reveal their true natures over the dinner table in a Bunel- esque carnival of satire, you could comment on the wide-scale acceptance of violence in the media and how saturated we are with almost pornographic brutality while at the same time pretending that it does not really exist.
Or you could make "The Purge"
"The Purge" is one of the limpest films ever, which fails miserably as a social satire, a dystopian future nightmare and a blood chilling Horror movie. It is almost like drawing a straight line with a pencil, it starts, it carries on the same, then ends with no fluctuation, variety or development. The characters are literally place-holder cut-outs -the professional family man, his good mother wife, his rebellious teenage daughter and geeky teen younger son, the edgy boyfriend the father doesn't approve of, the noble saintly black man, the evil rich yahoo types, the snobby neighbours – who never evolve outside their 1 dimensional moulds. There are no shocks, no surprises, no twists you think might be coming, no grand lesson, no epiphany. Here everything IS simply black and white with absolutely no troubling shades of grey to worry your little heads about.
The nice middle class professional family (who would already be married and having kids NOW) blindly accept what the Government tells them without a thought (You can murder rape and steal from who you like for a whole day? Hey, I'm fine with that..) and get rich from selling home security, which of course makes them partly evil because making money IS evil (unless of course you work in Hollywood, in which case it is perfectly OK) After a clichéd family dinner rift on Purge night, the geek son decides to take in an escaped slave pursued by lynch happy cackling plantation owners
.(COUGH!!) Sorry, I mean a poor helpless black homeless man being pursued by lynch happy masked rich white kids (See, rich = EVIL, unless you work in Hollywood of course in which case rich = GOOD) The family find themselves being menaced by said bunch of Evil Rich White Kids, who wear stupid joker smile masks of themselves and rattle off "we are the decent people, it is our task to eliminate the poor scum from the face of the Earth and leave it for the good rich white folk" speeches written by some Liberal Hollywood type who imagines that's how anybody outside his comfy little circle must think. Despite being built up as the ultimate in terror, these "blood bloods" are the least menacing or effective opponents since the Demons in "Ghost Rider" and the ease with which they are dispatched is almost insulting.
What have we learned as the long dark night is over? That Rich people are evil (especially white ones, unless they work in Hollywood) that all black people are saintly and good, that "New Founding Fathers" are also evil and probably Tea Partiers, that gun control is a must even though most of the killing done has been with knives and machetes, and that ambition for a family is itself dangerous.
This film is as likely to insult Liberals as it is anyone else with its brazen stupidity and waste of a potentially interesting subject.
And it's not scary or exciting either, but it could be a good cure for Insomnia if someone wants to patent it!
Review by s_campanale from the Internet Movie Database.