Movie Review: The Purge

June 03, 2013

I’ve been on a run of lacklustre movies of late at the local multiplex. Sure, the Unlimited card thingy makes it feel that the very act of turning up at the cinema equates to getting value for money, but there’s been a few noticeable turkeys of late that make me feel like I should’ve just stayed at home. A one-off live screening of the Shane Meadows-directed Stone Roses documentary ‘Made of Stone’ last week offered a brief respite from the torrent of shite I’ve become accustomed to. As I’m neither a fan of the band or that era in general, it’s a credit to Meadows for fashioning together a fine film that appealed to diehards and non-converts such as myself alike. I’m sorry to say that having seen ‘The Purge’ at the weekend; I’m right back to square one.

I must admit the concept for ‘The Purge’ appealed to me. In the year 2022 crime and unemployment are at an all-time low. Reason being that the U.S. government has sanctioned an annual 12-hour period in which any and all criminal activity-including murder-becomes legal. The police can't be called. Hospitals suspend help. It's one night when the citizenry regulates itself without thought of punishment. I admit this sounds absolutely preposterous, but nevertheless I figured the filmmakers might have a bit of fun with the idea. The cast seems reasonably competent as well – Ethan Hawke continuing his role of unlikeable father figures after last year’s ‘Sinister’, and ‘Game of Thrones’ star Lena Headey feature as the heads of the Sandin family, an affluent suburban clan looking to wait out the annual Purge in their heavily fortified mansion. Writer and Director James DeMonaco also wrote the unnecessary Assault on Precinct 13 remake in 2005 (in which Hawke also starred), and you can tell they are trying to emulate the atmosphere of the original movie here along with the likes of home-invasion movies like Straw Dogs. So what could possibly go wrong?

Well, pretty much everything to be honest. Home-invasion movies by their very nature should be lean, taut affairs with the right amount of fear and claustrophobia present in an enclosed space. ‘The Purge’ manages to mess this up from the get-go by having its family members lose track of each other on the landing of their own damn house as well as resorting to cheap tactics like turning off all the lights in an attempt to up the tension. When the bad guys turn up we get more cheap scares in the form of weird mask-wearing preppy kids and pantomime-esque overacting from their leader Rhys Wakefield. In the un-swerviest of modern day horror swerves, they turn out to not be the true bad guys… and by that point I really wasn’t particularly arsed about who lived or died.

I think what annoyed me most about The Purge is that it very much wanted to have its cake and eat it. Central to the film’s core theme was that violence is inherently bad yet it had no qualms about showing some poor prick getting his face shot off in a succession of ‘cool’ death scenes. Add to that there were zero thrills or scares to be had in this thriller-horror hybrid and it made for a very long 85min running time. One final point to finish – Ethan Hawke, you’re supposed to be some shit-hot hi-tech security salesman in the future yet your state of the art home defence system seems to equate to nothing more than a couple of metal rollers that come down over the doors and windows. My local Bargain Booze looks like Fort Knox in comparison.

1 weird looking kid / 10 

by Sean M

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