The Purge is one of those movies that has an intriguing premise but is cheapened by clichéd thriller scares and stupid decisions made by the characters. What could have been one of the most memorable and intense films of the year turns out to be just another “scary movie.”
It’s the year 2022 and the United States government has sanctioned one night a year where any and all crime is legalized and emergency services suspended. This 12-hour period is known as the Purge.
As the film opens, it’s 5:58 p.m. one hour and two minutes before the Purge begins. James Sandin (Ethan Hawke) and his wife Mary (Lena Headey) prepare to lock down their home with their two children Zoey (Adelaide Kane) and Charlie (Max Burkholder). James sells top-notch security systems and he assures his family this year is nothing new; the security system will work and they will all be free of harm.
Just when the family is settling down for a prepared safe night, a stranger forces his way into the Sandins’s home and the family is tested to see how far they will go to protect themselves from the wicked outside.
The Purge has some piercingly good moments and Hawke and Headey give strong performances, it’s just a shame that the screenplay didn’t allow for more exploration of the idea. Director and writer James DeMonaco (Skinwalkers and Assault of Precinct 13) focuses solely on murder and how in one particular family’s case, it turns into a home invasion. It would have been interesting to see what else was going in the country that night, even if the director just decided to include short clips here and there.
It also doesn’t help that the characters make the most idiotic decisions in order to survive. Yes, let’s all split up in a mansion while a bunch of psychotic people in masks try to find us! The film has a hint of 2008’s The Strangers, another film about a home invasion starring Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman. If DeMonaco decided to take a more realistic approach on the idea of one night of chaos and leave out the clichés it would’ve been a much better film.
The motivation behind the final and unsatisfying twist doesn’t make any sense. The villains’ reasoning in attacking the Sandins is dull and laughable.
Hawke and Headey move the story along like pros, but I really should have been on the edge of my seat much more than I was. I would love to see this idea in a completely different screenplay because the idea is excellent; the way it was executed was disappointing.