UK Release Date: 31st May 2013
Runtime: 85 minutes
Director: James DeMonaco
Writer: James DeMonaco
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey, Rhys Wakefield
Synopsis: In 2022 America, all crime is legal for one night every year. When some uninvited guests arrive on Purge Night, one family is in a whole lot of trouble.
The most depressing thing about The Purge is not that it’s a terrible movie… which it is. In fact, the lasting impression of this film is that it really has wasted a terrific concept.
Essentially, by 2022, a new American government has managed to almost eradicate crime and unemployment by creating an annual 12 hour period where all crime is legal – the Purge. This allows people to release their frustrations on one night. Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey play parents whose quiet Purge Night is ruined by the arrival of Rhys Wakefield and his band of sneering, posh goons.
The Purge runs into problems almost from the start. Mistakenly, the film is set entirely on a Purge Night, rather than exploring the wider implications of the dystopian vision. Instead of weaving nuance and morality into the central conceit, James DeMonaco’s film disappears in a haze of muzzle flare and loud noise.
That’s not to say it’s completely without merit. The Purge is full of artfully staged action sequences and boasts a strong performance from Lena Headey as a mother tortured as her children are placed in danger. Rhys Wakefield, though, is the stand out as the grinning posh boy tormenting the family. His performance drips with menace and manages to stay just the right side of silly, despite being turned all the way up to eleven.
Unfortunately, that’s more than can be said for the rest of the film. For a high concept thriller, it spends an awful amount of time relying on cheap jump scares and juvenile rug pull moments. None of the characters act remotely like real people would and this makes it impossible to believe them, and the society in which they live.
The high concept of The Purge is entirely wasted by DeMonaco’s incredible lack of subtlety. Like Baz Luhrmann’s take on The Great Gatsby, this is a film sunk by an inability to harness the power of nuance. Too many sections of The Purge resort to shouty shooty bang bang when there should be some moral fat to chew over.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.