The Purge

Directed By: James DeMonaco

Starring: Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey, Adelaide Kane, and Max Burkholder

America is the poster child for gun-loving nations across the globe.  I'm not going to delve too deep into the divisive, often illogical misconceptions that are floating around the web about whether or not we should arm ourselves to death, but I can't deny that this has been a hot button issue this year.  What I will delve into are the many, many victims of gun violence and some of the malicious comments out there in the blogosphere about them, particularly those who have lost their lives to gang-related gun violence. 

There seems to be a stunning generalization by a vocal few on the web that all victims of gang-related violence are gangsters.  One such vile comment that I've heard based on this misconception is "Let them kill each other".  Basically, what this boils down to is that people making comments like this don't care about their fellow man or what this insane notion ultimately means for the moral fabric of the society in which they live.  They're just happy to get rid of a few "non-contributing" members of society.  There's a cold nonchalance and lack of humanity that's necessary to suggest this, even on the web.  It's certainly a bolder idea to take this notion to the big screen, but that's exactly what we're seeing this weekend with James DeMonaco's The Purge.

It's 2022.  A group of multinational corporations known as the New Founding Fathers have taken over the government and taken the United States in a new bloody direction.  Every year, they hold an event called the Purge during which all crime, including murder is legal.  For twelve hours, no emergency services are offered nationwide.  This includes police, firemen, and paramedics.  For twelve hours, the American people are left to fend for themselves or be "purified".  More often than not, the "non-contributing" members of society are the ones who help others “cleanse” themselves of hatred.  Thanks to this annual ritual, the economy is up, and crime is down (except for on this one night).

James Sandin (Ethan Hawke) sells home security systems for a living and has made a lot of money off his neighbors in preparation for this year's Purge.  After he wraps things up and gets ready for a night in his mini-fortress with his family, he sits down for dinner with his wife Mary (Lena Headey), his teen daughter Zoey (Adelaide Kane), and his son Charlie (Max Burkholder).  While discussing how each of their days was, James learns that his kids take issue with the Purge on moral grounds and the notion of killing off the poor and less fortunate annually. 

After dinner, the family locks the house down and arms their state-of-the-art security system.  Things go awry later that night when Charlie opens up the house and lets a bloodied homeless man (Edwin Hodge) inside, a man who's wanted by a group of bloodthirsty youngsters participating in the Purge.  Now, the family has a dangerous stranger inside and a bunch of young killers outside.  It would be an understatement to say that their safety has been compromised with the situation unfolding at their home.

The Purge is honestly an intriguing thriller with a unique, thought-provoking concept.  It's a movie that explores what happens when a morally conflicted family must decide between surviving and doing the right thing.  It also explores all the tension within the family that results from this kind of conflict.  Themes of social inequality and corporate fat cats' disproportionate influence over the nation pervade the film.  This premise is so awesome that it could have resulted in one of the best thrillers in years.  Decently acted and directed, the film certainly thrills and delights, but not as much as we all would have hoped.  While it's not a bad movie, The Purge is plagued with a few problems that hold it back from greatness.

Though the film is decently acted, some cast members shine more than others and vice versa.  I certainly enjoyed Ethan Hawke in his role as father James Sandin.  He is exactly what a protective father should be on the big screen, decisive.  Rarely wavering in his decisions, he's a kickass dad who's not afraid to get physical with his adversaries.  As his on-screen wife Mary, Lena Headey has her moments when she shines, but overall she's a timid peacekeeper.  Their kids Zoey and Charlie, portrayed by Adelaide Kane and Max Burkholder respectively, are more annoying than anything else.  However, I can't deny that they're the moral compass of The Purge.

The film's biggest problem is a poor choice for the villain.  Rhys Wakefield and his polite strangers are a random bunch of bloodthirsty youngsters with no connection to the Sandin clan other than some homeless guy who finds a safe haven in their home thanks to Charlie.  With the purge being all about cleansing oneself of sentiments natural to man like hatred and violence, the primary villain should have been a little closer to home and had personal issues with the family.  I'm sure James and Mary have made plenty of enemies as they've climbed their way to financial success on the heels of this annual bloodletting.  They’re the ones who should be tearing down the Sandin home.  We don't need this annoying, sicko twenty-something and his frat buddies getting involved.

The other big problem with The Purge is that it's filled with plenty of illogical plot developments.  Take Zoey's boyfriend Henry (Tony Oller) for example.  His idea of confronting her dad and proclaiming his love for her is anything but loving or reasonable.  I won’t say what he does, but I will say that it’s no way to get any love and affection from Zoey.  Another great example is James’s decision to give Charlie a gun and send him off on his own when all hell breaks loose.  This kid gets soft when a bloody homeless guy is running outside.  It's a little beyond ridiculous to think that he's capable of shooting and killing some assailant.  Finally, one might wonder why James opts to park his car out in the open and not in the garage when all crime will be legal later that night, including theft.  While questionable plot developments like those just mentioned are minor in scope, they all start to add up over the course of the film.

Ultimately, The Purge is a creative film that could have been executed better. I'm not saying that I didn't enjoy the film.  I'm just saying that director James DeMonaco and his screenwriters needed to spend a little more time crafting a better thought-out film.  It would have made a big difference.  As it stands, The Purge gets a 0.06% rating.  Have a couple of glasses of Zinfandel with this one.

STMR is hosting a giveaway for The Purge.  Click here for more information on how to win a freebie.  Enter for a chance to win by June 14th!