It’s 2022 and America is experiencing amazing prosperity, low unemployment and virtually no crime, but all of it comes at a price. For a single 12-hour period each year, people are allowed to commit any crime they wish without a penalty (not accounting for the crimes or arresting people usually does decrease the crime rate).
It’s supposed to give people a chance to purge their rage, and James Standin (Ethan Hawke) has made a ton of money from rich people who purchase his security systems because they have something to lose when others start looking to vent anger and resentment (Donald Trump would have to hide out on a secluded, unknown, unmapped island to avoid all of the people who want to vent on him).
Yet, as the purge begins, there is one weakness in Standin’s security system, and it’s about to be exploited in the worst way possible against his family.
I have to admit, some of my preconceptions about The Purge were wrong. At first glance, the plot seems to suggest this is yet another gore fest or sick wish fulfillment movie all about the blood and violence, which the audience would be cheering for as it got nastier and nastier.
However, writer/director James DeMonaco makes a movie that deplores instead of glorifies violence. Sure, he tries to throw in a bunch of themes. We get some stuff about The Haves and The Have Nots, as well as some allusions to the masses engaging in irrational behavior within the safety and the context of a group.
But, like you were sitting at a Hollywood party with Pauly Shore discussing gun control or Paris Hilton pontificating on the plight of the poor, these massive thoughts and themes are just kind of mentioned in passing to make the movie sound smart, but ultimately, have no depth. There’s a true lack of exploration.
The script doesn’t present many acting challenges, so Hawke and the cast don’t need to start booking flights to Hollywood for Oscar week. Some of the bit players express a little too much ridiculous glee during the violent parts and others ham it up a bit as the raging buttoned up types who are excited to go all primal.
Sadly, all of this leads to The Purge running out of steam towards the end. He does a decent job in some scenes of creating the anticipation of something horrible happening, which raises the tension levels, but, without enough material to fill out an entire feature length motion picture, DeMonaco has to add a whole new twist to extend the movie past the natural ending point.
Worst of all, the crowd I saw the movie with seemed disappointed by the lack of gratuitous violence and the beefed up presence of real moral choices and stuff that made you think. They started to turn on each other, which almost led to a frightening purge right there at the Cineplex!
The Purge is rated R for strong disturbing violence and some language.