The Purge: A $3 million “snuff” film

Daniel Woodhouse

Don’t you just love it when a movie trailer shows a film with an intriguing concept that turns out to be a let down? Then again, The Purge’s main idea of legalizing crime for 12 hours does feel like a bit of a stretch.

The Purge takes place nine years in the future. Crime and unemployment are at all time lows because of a yearly event instated in the United States called “The Purge,” where any crime is legal for a period of 12 hours. How allowing people to go on senseless rampages for one night each year correlates to jobs for everybody, I don’t know.

The film follows the story of a salesman named James (Ethan Hawke), who sells security systems to affluent people. These systems allegedly protect purchasers from the events of The Purge.

Despite its intriguing concept, The Purge fails to deliver because of its consistent logical fallacies.
Despite its intriguing concept, The Purge fails to deliver because of too many logical fallacies and overall poor acting.

On the night of “The Purge,” a wounded homeless man comes limping into James’ neighborhood, crying out for help. James’ son Charlie (Max Burkholder) sees him and, feeling sympathy for the man’s plight, temporarily disables his home’s security system to allow the man to get into their house and hide.

A group of high-society wannabes soon arrives, led by a man (Rhys Wakefield) who looks like he just got out of a Mensa meeting at his prep school. The youths demand James release the homeless man so they can murder him, or else they will slaughter everyone in the house. James and his family choose to defend their home from the intruders.

The home invasion premise of this film is reminiscent of the last 20 minutes of the movie Straw Dogs, except without the interesting kills, dramatic character development, moral ambiguity and, most importantly, tension.

Director James DeMonaco fails to create any sense of fear, partly due to the fact that he gives the family an arsenal of firearms in the house to defend themselves with. What’s even more annoying is every time the attackers have one of the family members either trapped or restrained, they take such a long dramatic pause before doing anything that it’s no surprise when one of the other family members arrives just in time to save the day.

The attackers in the film are unintelligent loonies who seemed to have taken to heart The Purge’s call to “cleanse their souls of their sins.” Aside from the unnamed leader all of them, they have no desirable traits and each attacker is equally interchangeable. Rhys Wakefield does a good job as the snobbish, yet polite leader of the gang of Oxford rejects, but his character is so one-dimensional that he has little to work with. Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey are fairly flat as James and Mary Sandin, but tolerable at least. The rest of the cast isn’t much better and gives boring performances.

Ultimately, The Purge is an intriguing idea, but it fails in overall execution and presentation, made worse by its lame, abrupt ending.

1 out 5 stars