Some movies are so bad that they are unintentionally funny, but those films at least have that accidental humor going for them. Not so with The Purge, a humorless film that from its initial conception to its final on-screen completion is as awful and downright dumb as any movie I can remember having ever seen.
Directed and written by James DeMonaco (The Negotiator), The Purge’s story is as shallow as it is stupid, although it does make a lame attempt to proffer some sort of non-intelligent commentary about violence in the modern world and the struggle between the haves and have-nots. But this pseudo exposition of societal woes is just nonsense.
The year is 2022, yes, just nine years into the future, and the United States has adopted the governmental philosophy of our new “founding fathers” who have determined that they can reduce the nation’s crime rate by allowing its populace 12-hours per year to enjoy legally raping, pillaging and murdering their fellow man and getting all that nastiness out of their system in one fell swoop. Apparently anyone and anything is up for grabs, except for high-level government officials.
The rich are able to afford elaborate security systems that protect them and their families from the annual crime-spree, and James Sandin (Ethan Hawke) is a salesman who has gotten rich by selling said security systems to his upper-class community.
Unfortunately, all of James’ wealth and his secure mansion can’t protect him from the angst of his teenage daughter (Adelaide Kane) and her older boyfriend, or the despondence of his younger son (Max Burkholder) who just doesn’t understand The Purge and all of its needless violence. Welcome to the crowd, Junior!
In fact, the makers of this movie as so worried that you won’t ‘get’ its premise that they have to repeat it to you and justify it ad nauseam with lengthy family conversations and televised news programs playing in the background throughout the first half of the movie.
As the night of The Purge commences, the rich lock down their homes and settle in for a night of entertainment which includes watching the televised violence that is simultaneously occurring outside of their homes. But at the Sandin estate, that pesky boyfriend has sneaked into the house to confront the straight-laced father, and the son opens up the barricades to let in an injured man who is being pursued by a gang of thugs.
The young hoodlums, led by a Heath Ledger/Joker lookalike (Rhys Wakefield), want their escaped human prey and they threaten the Sandin family that they will break in and kill them all unless they give the man up – and it turns out they can actually do it because the glitzy security package that Daddy Sandin has made his fortune on is pretty much useless and just for show.
What follows is a run-of-the-mill cinematic cat & mouse game where the good guys try to stalk the bad guys and just before someone gets shot, someone else shoots the shooter instead. For extra fun, Sandin’s son has created a robot that is a mix between a baby-doll and a Roomba that he remotely drives around the house from his hidden crawlspace. I’m not sure what that robot adds to the film or what noting it adds to this review, but then, there you go.
I would say that The Purge is a cross between A Clockwork Orange and Panic Room, but that comparison would give way too much credit to this ridiculous film and insult the integrity of those otherwise decent movies. The only positive thing I can say about this film is that it is mercifully only 85 minutes long.