Cast: Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey, Rhys Wakefield
Running Time: 85 minutes
Release Date: May 31
In case you’ve avoided all the ads, The Purge refers to a 12 hour period every year when all crime is legal. Since the implementation of this simple and elegant/utterly moronic (delete as appropriate) system of governance, the crime rate has fallen off dramatically and unemployment stands at 1%. How law is enforced for the remainder of the year is never dealt with, but for those twelve hours your options are to either lock your house down and wait for it to be done with or go out into the night and go hog wild.
Our guides for this one hellish night in utopia are the Sandin family. Home security salesman James (Hawke), bland wife Mary (Headey, trying her best) and their insanely stupid children. James and Mary believe in the purge because it saved the country, but don’t feel the need to indulge in any murdering. Both stupid children are responsible for someone outside the family being in the house after lockdown; Stupid Child 1 because of teenage love and Stupid Child 2 because someone outside was begging for help to not be murdered. And god-damn; the person about to be murdered was a poor black man and he was about to be murdered by a bunch of preppies, because they think he’s subhuman, and that it’s their right as ‘decent folk’ to ‘release the beast’ on him as a lesser member of society. THE ECONOMY, MAN. AND RACISM. THEY’RE THE SAME, MAN.
The sheer lack of subtlety on show would here be more forgivable if The Purge were in any way tense or exciting. One well done fight scene aside, there’s no real tension to speak of, and I lost track of the number of times a character is at an attacker’s mercy only to be saved at the last minute. The only thing more obvious than the acting is the plotting, and if it weren’t for Ethan Hawke holding everything together this would be a complete disaster. There’s a milding diverting twist in the third act, but then you’ll remember that you figured it out an hour ago.
Personal inference in reviews is rarely a good thing, but I’ve no other recourse here: I don’t get The Purge. I don’t understand why it exists, the person who would want to pay to see it, or why Ethan Hawke is in it. It’s not bad, not in the empirical sense. It just doesn’t have anything to offer beyond an interesting premise and themes about as subtle as a drunk politics student. Scratch that; a hammered politics student.