James DeMonaco directed “Staten Island” which was a very impressive crime drama film with Ethan Hawke a few years ago. James and Ethan have joined forces again with a new suspense/thriller called “The Purge”. This was one of my most highly anticipated films of 2013. Over the past few months I have heard mostly mixed reviews and or no constructive criticism from other film reviewers about this one. The Purge is set in the near future with new founding fathers in the United States. Crime rates and unemployment are at an all time low due to the mandatory annual purge. A 12 hour period once a year, where any and all crime is legalized and emergency services are put on hold. We are introduced to the Sandin family in the beginning of the film. James (played by Ethan Hawke) and his wife Mary (Lena Headey from Game Of Thrones) and their two kids 16-year-old Zoey and her younger brother Charlie.
The family is preparing to have a quiet night inside there house, while everyone else cleanses their souls by taking part in the Purge. James sells security systems for a living, and has sold the same system that’s in his house to the rest of the suburb which is a gated community. Charlie is just a young boy who doesn’t really comprehend the purpose of the purge, he just see’s the violence and doesn’t think its right. Just as the family is settling down and relaxing preparing to wait it out, a young black man on the streets is calling out for help. Charlie realises that the man will probably be killed if he doesn’t help him, so he opens the security system and lets the young man inside. What follows is a wonderful cat and mouse game between young preppy college students wielding knives and guns and The Sandin family. The group who are led by “The Polite Leader” played with real enthusiasm by Aussie lad Rhys Wakefield, attempt to break into the house to kill the stranger who apparently killed one of their groups members.
I enjoyed watching James (Hawke) as the head of the house. Lately Ethan has been doing a bunch of genre films that have taken him out of his comfort zone and he really seems to flourish. Headey is very good as well, her character is the voice of reason and the moral focal point. It’s really Wakefield though that steals the show. We don’t know anything about this strangely polite yet menacing young man, much like the intruders in Michael Haneke’s brilliant film “Funny Games”. Rhys brings charisma to the role and at the same time such an eerie quality about the mystery surrounding his character. Did I mention the gimmicky mask element. I don’t care what anyone says, that look is effective and gives the audience very little comfort and that’s a good thing in a film of this nature.
I really liked the intro narrative, we are given some information on how The Purge has come to exist. The warnings and sirens were good too, I sensed a really eerie feeling. The films really close personal camera work helps put you in the shoes of the family. Accompanied by a great suspenseful score the end product is a fun thrill ride on this most dark of nights. I like it that our characters make realistic choices and experience real consequences to those choices. That doesn’t normally occur in films of this nature. People are saying that because of some of the family’s actions, they are in fact no better than the people taking part in the purge. I disagree, if your house, the place your supposed to feel most comfortable is under threat or your family is in danger most people will go to great lengths to protect that. There are a bunch of great jump scares throughout the movie too, another gimmick that’s taken full advantage of. The typical expected twist was not so expected this time around, I was actually surprised. I probably shouldn’t have been but I was.
Honestly, there isn’t to many bad things to say about this film. I think Charlie’s whole robot toy scenario and the fact it takes precedence in a few of the scenes was a little bit lame and it took me out of the film for a moment or two. The melodramatic teen love bit that plays out like an episode of the OC probably wasn’t need either. I guess the director tried to create another layer to the secondary characters. I also thought that our group of kids probably get inside the house a little to easy. With James (Hawke) as a security sales rep they could have made it a little more difficult with a more full proof system. The fact that the young son knows the security code is fairly weak too. If the Sandin family were that serious about keeping safe on the night of the purge only James would have the code.
Moreover, the young black man’s role in the film was a bit too predictable. They tried to mix it up with a twist to his character at the end but I saw most of the twists and turns coming. As well as that, he is also stabbed or shot (can’t remember), earlier in the film. Yet by the final act his wound isn’t bleeding anymore, not sure what happened there. They could have clarified that part a little bit better.
This entire concept is pretty farfetched and we are not likely to see anything like this in the near future (haha). However, for an entertaining and original idea along with the little dig the film has at Political officials and government surveillance and security etc, is quiet clever. After all, we do live in a big brother world and are constantly being watched. The message from this is like saying if you had one night a year for all illegal activity, no other crimes would be committed for the rest of the year. We know this isn’t true so therefore it falls a little flat in that sense. This is just 85 minutes of fast paced, suspenseful fun with some great action sequences. I like the fact this wasn’t overly violent nor does it rely on shock value, most of the fun was in the build up not the climax. The performances are good and the masks looked great. I can’t wait for The Purge 2!
My rating for “The Purge” is 7.5/10