Friday, June 7, 2013
THE PURGE: Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey, directed by James DeMonaco (85 min.)
In the not-so-distant future, crime is at an all time low across America, unemployment is less than 1%, and the economy is stable and thriving. This is because one night every year, from 7 pm to 7 am, all crime has been made legal, from petty thievery all the way up to murder. This night is called “the purge,” mandated by government law as a means of release for citizens. An emergency broadcast alert even scrolls across the screen once the night of the purge begins. This is the basic premise of The Purge, the new film starring Ethan Hawke, a film which begins with a grand idea loaded with implications and discussion points, and decides to abandon all of this in favor of a home invasion thriller.
I had so many questions as soon as the film began, and so many different ideas are thrown at the screen through news snippets and dialogue. The Purge does something interesting with its basic idea in that it shows how the poor are weeded out of society by this night of murder, creating now lower class. No wonder unemployment is under 1%, all the unemployed are being killed every year. The notion that this night releases aggression in the human brain, easing our tension and making us less prone to violence, is another interesting theory delivered through a nameless philosopher on a news broadcast. It is never explored fully. But then there is the angle that the purge showcases the worst in humanity, and is nothing more than an outlet for the psychopaths to do what they want. Alas, we are not here for some important sociological experiment; instead we are whisked along quickly to the night of the purge where a standard action thriller can unfold.
The Purge could have been something quite profound in the end, if only the filmmakers had taken their time. It is under ninety minutes and it could have easily been over two hours. How about showing James at work on these security systems, overlooking a flaw? Or what about these kids at school and the other teenagers thoughts on such an event? The man who hides in their home, do we get to know him? Not really. And the psychos at the door are yanked right out of The Strangers or some other home invasion potboiler. Even when they take off their masks, they’re about as faceless as they were beforehand. Nothing is fleshed out as it should be, chalking up The Purge as just one big missed opportunity.