Aside from lacking the cerebral violence and losing its conviction. “The Purge” is painfully predictable and decidedly idiotic, not to mention acted with such insincerity. Ultimately, a premise with supreme potential has gone to waste here as “The Purge” resorts to the same-old boring cliches and cheap thrills that have plagued this genre for far too long. Ripe with countless plot holes and unanswered questions that hamper the viewer from enjoying anything of value. “The Purge” is going to learn the hard way that just because you own an ideal that can achieve astounding heights, doesn’t mean that the final product has any merit. That being said, it is sure to appeal to the brain-dead, casual cinema-goers on its opening weekend. Sadly, after that, “The Purge” has little-to-no staying-power and will fall to the wayside. A fate that should never have befallen a concept as unique as an annual purge.
In the year 2022, the United States, a nation reborn and ruled by the new Founding Fathers, allow all criminal activity to be legal one night a year, including murder. This period lasts twelve hours and is called “The Purge.” Aside from a few rules that must be followed, the annual purge is a catharsis for people to let all the tension, violence, and hate they build up all year long out. James Sandin (Hawke) and his family prepare for this night the way they always have and everything is planned to be executed without any problems. Little do they realize that they are in for a night they will never forget, and sadly, neither will I.
Granted, the first half hour, roughly, is a terrific buildup, the calm before the storm. The description and eeriness of impending terror from the annual purge is unsettling to say the least. The audiences hearts pulsate in anticipation and soon the air raid siren begins, followed by lockdown. However, instead of signalling the beginning of death and destruction. The emergency broadcast merely indicates the starting of a few whimpers, stupidity, and supposed maniacs who have more of a taste for the theatrics than actual murder. Evidently, this annual storm, aka “The Purge,” is as predictable and harmless as a group of people who talk big but don’t have the hands-on training or mental instability to inflict any damage. Summarized, I’m more terrified at the thought of having to watch “The Hangover: Part 3” again than this so called night of horror.
Another aspect of this terrific theory is its socio-political value, that utterly goes to waste with the rest of the film. Instead of raising thought-provoking questions, such as the distinct disadvantage that the poor are at the mercy of when the annual purge commences, or how to upkeep a business when essentially it can be burned to the ground without consequence, actively pursue them. Anything would be better than what actually takes place. But no, “The Purge” decides to focus on a family with all the advantages and abilities to protect themselves, but essentially falter because one member has this ingenious idea to disarm the security system after it had begun. Also, why not just take a vacation that week? Instead of fortifying your mansion, build a bunker underground? There are literally hundreds of ways to better prepare or escape the annual purge that are so simplistic it really takes away from any terror or horror “The Purge” can muster, but I digress.
As for the film itself, there is really nothing that sticks with you after its over. When you have a couple of acting heavyweights in Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey, there should be something that resonates, regrettably, there isn’t. Apart from Rhys Wakefield, who portrays the main antagonist with a calm, unsettling demeanour. Every single one of the performances feel forced and rot with inauthenticity. Writer and director James DeMonaco really offers nothing special, aside from the wasted premise itself. His camerawork throughout is scattered, dizzying, and frustrating. Not to mention that the entire film is basis for a retraction of its initial and only doctrine. It is rather unbelievable that a man who’s sole job in life is to sell protection from the purge would turn against it in a matter of seconds, but again…I digress.
If you can make it through “The Purge” without laughing at its stupidity or shaking your head in disappointment, odds are you’re brainless. By the time its finale rolls around, one can’t help but feel an immense amount if pity and physical numbness. “The Purge” will leave you with your head hung to the side and drool dripping down your chin. I’m not trying or incidentally being cynical, I just hate to see a great idea go to waste and “The Purge” is a prime example of unrealized talent and potential. With a cast and premise of this magnitude, “The Purge” should have been a lot better.
The Purge: 4 out of 10.