Friday, October 2, 2015
The Purge (2013)
This is the film that answers the question: So, what exactly would happen if there was complete anarchy? Well, at least if there weren't any police or medical services for 12 hours every year. (And we thought that the government shut down was bad!)
The plot of The Purge is painfully simple. As a dramatic effort to put a dramatic cutdown on the overall crime rate, the powers that be allow a single night every year where all crime is legal. Citizens can go absolutely nuts if they want to and burn down churches, murder their neighbors, loot the local shopping mall... you get the idea. Of course, this is a thriller so it's going to focus on the whole "murder your neighbors" thing.
James (Ethan Hawke) and his wife Mary (Lena Headey) decide that they are going to take the moral high ground and just isolate themselves at home with their kids for the night of The Purge. Since James works for a company that installs better-than-Fort-Knox security systems, they feel pretty safe. And, being the good patriotic Americans that they are, they don't forget to put out some flowers on their porch to show their support for the whole bloody night.
However, their kids don't seem to have the whole concept of what "isolation" means, as their daughter Zoey (Adelaide Kane) invites her boyfriend over and their son Charlie (Max Burkholder) lets Bloody Stranger (Edwin Hodge) into the house. (I'm not kidding, "Bloody Stranger" is the name of the character according to the IMDB page.)
Oh, and Mr. Stranger is being hunted by Polite Leader (Rhys Wakefield) - again, real character name - and his band of merry masked murderers. To top it off, the neighbors across the street are holding a "Purge Party" and some have gone hunting. So in a nutshell, James and his family find out exactly how many people dislike them over the course of an evening.
Yes, the film is very predictable. There are no surprises, no "You killed my brother in the Purge of 2019... prepare to die" moments. We know exactly who is holding a grudge within the first five minutes. But even armed with that knowledge, the movie does succeed in keeping the tension up high enough so that it's still enjoyable to watch and wait for the next contestant to take a whack at the family.
The overall theme is quite disturbing. You have to wonder if citizens make special effort to be nice to each other in order to avoid being put on anyone's Purge list. The only thing I found disappointing was the film ended at dawn. I would have loved to have seen the awkwardness at the next PTA meeting or how many people didn't show up for work the next day.
The characters, especially Mr. Polite Leader and his group, aren't entirely believable. I just can't see a bunch of people with murder on their minds sitting around waiting for a few hours to see if anyone would comply with their request to have a victim handed over. And the masks seemed completely unnecessary, at least outside of creeping out the viewing audience. I suppose you could chalk it up to people being cowardly to show their faces even when committing murder with the full blessing of the government, much like how hangmen would wear a hood to avoid being recognized. It just seemed a bit silly to me.
Is it a terrific movie? No. But it is fun to watch if you are into thrillers.
Film Information: The Purge