The Purge

It's 2022, and the Tea Party has completely taken over. I usually try not to be political, but it's difficult to avoid it here. Supposedly, the fact that once a year, for just twelve hours, absolutely nothing is illegal has solved all the the problems of the United States, and it's all thanks to the New Founding Fathers. The official story is that the Purge, as it's called, makes the world better because it gets out all the violent impulses we have. Practically speaking, of course, the only people that end up dead are the ones who can't afford fancy security systems and lots of guns to protect themselves, hence my theory about the Tea Party.

Ethan Hawke was practically a god in Daybreakers because he was working on a blood substitute; while here he's in almost the same situation because he has a job selling security systems. He plays James Sandin, while Lena Headey (300) is his wife Mary. Their neighbors, like Mrs. Ferrin (Arija Bareikis) and Mr. Halverson (Chris Mulkey, Collapse), seem to resent the fact that James has gotten rich from selling them all security systems, though that doesn't make a lot of sense. Presumably, he didn't persuade them to buy by holding a gun to their heads (since that's still illegal most of the time), and why would you not want a really good security system in a world like this? It's hardly the only thing here that doesn't make sense, though.

The Sandins have the requisite two adorable children, Zoey (Adelaide Kane) and Charlie (Max Burkholder). The former is a rebellious teenager, angry because Dad disapproves of her boyfriend Henry (Tony Oller), while the latter spends his time tinkering with a little robot that darts around the house and transmits video feed back to him. That can be pretty useful during a home invasion sort of movie, as you might imagine.

Anyway, Charlie doesn't think much of the whole Purge idea, though Dad says he's just too young to understand. But a couple of hours into the Purge, Charlie sees a man (Edwin Hodge, Red Dawn) running down the street yelling for help, and deactivates the house's security systems to let him in. Since it foolishly lacks any sort of option for opening only one door or window, the rest of the family realizes instantly what's happened, and that's when everyone starts freaking out.

Enter Rhys Wakefield (the kid from Sanctum, though there he was allowed to sound Australian) as the psychotic leader of a group of rich college kids who have dressed up to 'go hunting', as everyone calls it. If all crime is legal, you'd think there would also be people out robbing and such, but the movie ignores all lesser offenses, probably to help generate suspense, though it doesn't really work. The point is, he and his buddies want the man Charlie let into the house because he's just a homeless piece of filth, and why would the Sandins be so cruel as to deny them the "right to Purge"?

That's the fundamental problem right there, I guess. I just can't wrap my mind around any possible scenario where this would be a good way to vent frustrations. What if you try to kill the neighbor you're feuding with and fail? One of you had better sell your house at that point. Ditto your hated boss. Hopefully you had the sense to have a new job lined up. And I also can't believe that it would help the economy or society to have half the population traumatized after witnessing and/or participating in all these brutal deaths.

Two and a half out of five is about the best I can do. The acting is all solid, at least, though Lena Headey is mostly useless; the script gives the poor woman almost nothing to do except at the very end. And Zoey could have been even more flaky, I suppose, though not by much. I also suspect that many of the conversations the characters might have had about the situation and their options were cut, as several obvious points that should have been discussed are glossed over or ignored. It's sort of a failed morality play with too many racial and political overtones, which also should have been set much further in the future. I'm pretty sure that even the Tea Party can't work quite that fast, thankfully.

When dressing to kill, wear impractical clothing and masks so you can't see.


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