The Purge was a very odd movie. I’ll start out by saying I didn’t really dislike it, and I consider it “pretty good” in terms of entertainment. The biggest problem I really have with it is that it is written is such a bizarre way that I can’t really understand why it was done the way it was. I’ll try to keep spoilers to an absolute minimum though, in case anyone has any interest in seeing it.
For those unaware, The Purge is a thriller movie that was produced by Platinum Dunes, a studio who has quite a hit or miss record of horror movies… and Pain & Gain (yeah, I don’t know). The concept is a pretty unique one, where the United States government has decided that the way to fix the country is by allowing the country to commit whatever crimes they want for one night a year only, calling it The Purge. Why the government decided that this is completely fair but won’t let people legally smoke pot boggles my mind, but I’m assuming they’re saving that for the sequel. The idea is that if everyone releases all of their pent up aggression over one night, they won’t commit crimes during the day.
The protagonist of our story is James Sandin (played by Ethan Hawke), father of two, who sells security systems to people specifically for the annual Purge. So needless to say, he’s rich and lives in a fancy home because of it. His daughter, Zoey, is a brat who wants to hook up with a boy older than her, while his son, Charlie, is some kind of tech wiz who doesn’t get why The Purge happens.
So what ends up happening is that when The Purge is going down, Charlie sees some guy outside screaming for help because a mob of people are trying to kill him. So Charlie opens up their awesome security system to let this homeless guy inside. This turns into a very, very bad move because it turns out that this angry mob of super rich people want to kill the homeless guy. Homeless Guy is the name he will be referred to as since they never bothered to give him a name. The leader of the mob (played by Rhys Wakefield who does a fantastic job) tells James that if his family doesn’t give up Homeless Guy, that he’ll break down his house and kill him and his family. So then a moral quandary occurs where the parents obviously want to throw Homeless Guy to the wolves while their son wants to protect him.
And that’s all the background you really need. This movie is very much ham-fisting you all of the moral issues that come with The Purge. You don’t really need to think for yourself on any of them; because I assure you that the movie will do all of the thinking and decision making for you. This makes the movie rather predictable as well because you know exactly what will happen throughout the movie. This isn’t to say that the movie doesn’t throw in a few twists for you, but it makes it obvious where it is going to go in general.
Because of these very obvious moral issues, we are strung along on what is a bizarre way of making a thriller movie. There aren’t exactly a lot of thrills going on. In fact, there’s about maybe fifteen minutes or less of actual thriller aspects in the movie. Much of the middle is spent playing hide-and-seek with Homeless Guy, which doesn’t really evoke any sense of terror or fear into anyone, because you can very much anticipate what will happen. In fact, I found myself kind of getting bored halfway through these segments. This part of the story is only broken up by the mob leader’s fantastic acting which carries the movie through the more banal segments.
Through all of these force-fed moral issues, I had one main thought: why is it that this concept is wasted on a home invasion movie? I understand why this works and what they wanted to do with the movie, but I can’t help but think that with all of the security camera clips they show with how The Purge is on the outside world that they’re kind of wasting this concept. Why not make a movie where they have one guy out there, trying to decide what he’ll do. Many of these moral issues could be tackled just as well, and possibly better, if they made a story about a guy who goes “hunting” on the night of The Purge. I just feel like watching the absolute mayhem and carnage that the US allows on one night would have been more intriguing and engaging.
Oh, and you are absolutely going to root against the little kid, Charlie, simply because that’s just what you do when you have little kids who make little kid mistakes in movies. And for some reason filmmakers haven’t realized that we have zero forgiveness for kids who make little kid mistakes.
Of course, this isn’t to say that it’s all bad. I loved Rhys Wakefield’s performance as the bad guy, and I’d say that he did the best job of anyone. I also enjoyed some of the ironic elements they displayed in the flick, such as James Sandin selling security systems only for his house to get broken into among other spoileriffic moments. Another part I enjoyed was how they showed what people’s mind sets are because of The Purge and how they all react to it. And if they showed a little more subtlety in the moral issues they presented, I think I would have found myself enjoying them far more than I had. When they got around to finally having the thriller portions of the movie begin, I would have enjoyed them as well. The directing during those scenes was rather good, I thought.
Overall, The Purge suffers from predictability and very blatantly forced moral issues. This isn’t to say it’s a bad movie or a bad concept, but I just think that the writing leaves much to be desired. So when I say the movie is “pretty good,” I say I enjoyed it… but I don’t think I’d ever really want to see it more than once. It doesn’t exactly have as much value as I feel like the creators wanted it to, but hopefully the announced sequel will have more to it than this one did.