I wasn’t planning on giving The Purge its own, personal review on the site. For starters, I watched it last month and I feel like I spoke enough about it in my review of The Strangers. But I started writing about it in tomorrow’s The Month in Movies: September 2013 post and quickly realized I needed to purge this movie from my system in the form of a full-length review.
I’m posting this a day after Tiny posted his second Shocktober Musings piece in which he really tore into this movie. I thought the concept of The Purge (the country goes crime-free for 12 hours once a year so people can release their pent up aggression) was intriguing but the movie didn’t even begin to utilize the concept to its full potential.
Tiny made the argument that it was nonsensical at a conceptual level considering there is no version of America that would actual sanction such a ridiculous strategy to curb crime. I hadn’t considered it from a political standpoint at all and I fully agree with him. I would counter his argument that the setup could have worked if the America represented in the movie was a full-on, far off dystopian society. But it’s not, really. Hell, it takes place only about a decade from now and everything looks just about the same.
When the movie isn’t failing to setup its core premise, it’s failing in most other aspects of basic filmmaking and storytelling. Ethan Hawke plays a wealthy man who sells high-end home security systems for people looking to hide from the yearly purge. His family is pretty standard for this type of movie. Lena Headey (Cersei from Game of Thrones) is his wife and they have some kids. It’s all very nuclear.
The movie borrows heavily from a lot of different movies. There’s a slight Assault on Precinct 13 (which Ethan Hawke starred in the remake of) feel when the youngest of the children inexplicably lets in a terrified man roaming their neighborhood. There’s a shot near the end that’s very identical to 28 Days Later (nitpicking, but it really irked me).
Most of all, though, are the masks. The villains of the movie wear masks as they threaten to murder Ethan Hawke and his family. It’s completely needless. I have a very strong suspicion that the director had some downtime one day while filming, put on The Strangers and thought, “Oh, masks are cool in home invasion movies.”
I’m getting ahead of myself. So Ethan Hawke’s kid lets in the man. The family soon has visitors at their door demanding the family release the man. The leader of this band of murderers has to be one of the most irritating and best examples of a subpar actor miscast in a scantily written role. The character is a psychopathic murderer who seems to use the purge as a ritualistic exercise. He detests the common filth of society.
My main problem is with the actor’s portrayal. EVERY SCENE Rhys Wakefield is in, the actor has this ungodly annoying grin on his face. It is one of the most irritating things I’ve seen in recent memory. It’s almost as if you can actually see the actor trying to remember the bullet points he read when he scanned the Wikipedia page for “psychopathy” a couple hours before he showed up on set. It’s that horrendous and distracting.
The movie has one little thing going for it but it only amounts to two scenes. There’s a subplot involving Ethan Hawke’s daughter’s boyfriend. The plot takes a surprising turn early in the movie and then it’s completely dropped. It feels like the filmmakers just didn’t want to let anything that could be watchable into the movie.
There are a lot of things wrong with this movie. The clichéd climax, for example, has been done in countless movies of this ilk. And the denouement of the movie is ridiculous as it force-feeds us a message that, frankly, didn’t need to be spelled out. Spoiler alert, everybody, murdering people is wrong. What a novel idea.
That’s it for my review of The Purge. I feel good. I’m looking forward to seeing this movie on FX some Sunday afternoon or in the $5 bin at Wal-Mart where I suspect I’ll chuckle and think “Oh yeah, that was a movie, wasn’t it?”
What did you think of The Purge? Let me know in the comments below and check out the rest of The Obsessive Viewer’s Shocktober 2013 content. Don’t forget to follow me around the internet also.