Synopsis: In the future, a wealthy family is held hostage for harboring the target of a murderous syndicate during the Purge, a 12-hour period in which any and all crime is legalized
Set in 2022 America where crime and disorder have been significantly reduced through the introduction by the Government of an annual day of purging without legal consequence, The Purge is an interesting premise ultimately let down by underdeveloped characters and a weak third act.
Focussed on Ethan Hawke and family who, from within the relative safety of their heavily fortified gated community mcmansion, choose to sit out Purge Night. Unbeknownst to them, however, they are destined to be drawn in by the snap decision of their son to help a hunted man. When his over-privileged wannabe murderers turn up demanding his release, lest they enter and kill everyone, Hawke and co are left with a moral quandry: hand over an innocent man to a pack of murderous youths, whose legal right it is to kill him, and potentially save your family; or, knowing they are likely to kill you anyway, fight back.
With it’s obvious themes of the de-sensitisation and over sensationalization of violence set against a backdrop of privilege, it owes heavily to Michael Haneke’s Funny Games. In fact the preppy, psychotic blonde haired antagonist is an almost direct lift from Michael Pitt’s disturbing turn as Paul in Haneke’s brutal look at the nature of screen violence. While Funny Games, though, suffered from being so on the nose about it’s intentions and the questions it asked (literally at points as Paul breaks the fourth wall), The Purge never feels like it develops beyond a cat and mouse action thriller. Forgetting the questions it set out to ask whilst descending into generic gun play and an ultimately flat ending.
Which is a shame because underneath it beats the heart of an interesting film with an intriguing premise. I can’t help but feel it would have benefited from being set in an inner city with the family trying to move from one side to the other during the night as the metropolis descends into legally sanctioned chaos. But, hey, I’m not a millionaire Hollywood screenwriter so what do I know?
Conclusion: Intriguing premise that fails to deliver on the promise of it’s first 30 minutes. I’d say go an watch Funny Games instead but I don’t want to be responsible for inflicting that on you either…
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey, Max Burkholder, Adelaide Kane, Edwin Hodge, Rhys Wakefield