|(From Universal Pictures)|
"The Purge" is sort of like when you decide you are going to try and make this awesome gourmet recipe you found online, burn the whole thing to hell, and end up going to McDonalds.
The movie starts off with this really interesting premise of the United States creating a lawless and murderous 12 hours to cure the ills of society and improve the economy. We see issues of race, class warfare, and crazy conservatism (the kids in the creepy masks are like a demented young Republicans club) satirically touched on but never fleshed out. Writer/Director James DeMonaco gave himself all these attractive and thought-provoking ingredients, but the movie devolves in to a run of the mill Mc-home invasion thriller. The idea of “The Purge” ends up being a cheap set up to a family attempting to protect themselves from a bunch of murderous teens in masks looking for a stranger who took refuge with the family. To be fair the movie is mediocrely entertaining, it just doesn’t pay dividends on the political and social commentary we are teased with.
As creepy as the teens are, their characters are grossly underdeveloped. Their motivation for killing is a thin combination of it being their rights as haves in society/ a hatred of the poor. Rhys Wakefield plays the murderous Harvard Gentleman who is their leader in a character who has a great look but is ultimately uninterestingly static. There is not even lip service given to the fact that their target, played by Edwin Hodge, is black and that they are all white. The movie vaguely hints at race issues without having the balls to pursue it.
Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey play the Mr. and Mrs. who are “good” Americans believing in the Purge because they are wealthy enough for it not to affect them. When the violence comes to them however, values must be questioned. Bet you didn’t see that coming. Oh you did? Hawke and Headey are perfectly serviceable as rich Mom and Dad living the idyllic American dream but the “tough choices” they must make when their world is shattered are fairly obvious and the outcome decently predictable.
The effect "The Purge" has on jading and warping society is seen in the sad wide eyes of the son played by Max Burkholder and the eventually broken daughter played by Adelaide Kane. The kids are the main vehicle of exploring the ramifications of "The Purge" on the psyche of the US. While the points made are a little heavy handed, it ends up being one of the merits of the film.
There are some fun thrills and twists in the movie, though the foreshadowing is generally laid on pretty thick. The violence isn’t particularly graphic, instead relying on psychological elements to make you jump in your seat. If this movie was any other horror home invasion movie it would float quietly down mediocre river in to the Netflix ocean. It’s the frustrating unfulfilled promise of what this movie could’ve been that makes it stand out. All the elements were there; it just sort of lost its way.
Instead of wasting an hour and half you can listen to “Kill The Poor” By The Dead Kennedys for the same story.