It’s a shame that “The Purge” is only sub-par since the concept for it is fantastic. A new society allowing the world to murder, steal and wreak havoc for twelve hours as a means of catharses is a really good concept for a wonderful film. I imagine the scenario for the development of “The Purge” was something similar to “The Player.” A writer comes in pitching a great concept but with absolutely no story to offer the studio. So instead they just tacked on a half assed home remake of “Assault on Precinct 13” with a sanctimonious commentary on free will, and patriotism.
“The Purge” really packs in exposition on a new world filled with a new government allowing their civilization leeway for twelve hours, but in the end it’s one gigantic missed opportunity. Set in a somewhat near future (?), America has now become a theocracy of a sort where a new government has allowed one night a year to become a purge. For twelve hours, everyone in America can do what they want, be it rape, murder, torture, or robbery. “The Purge” already has a beefy concept prone for an excellent thriller, but the writers become way too ambitious trying to shove social commentary down our throats time and time again. “The poor are the victims in this purge!” a radio DJ screams during the opening. Because they can’t afford protection, understand? Controversial!
Ethan Hawke plays rich yuppy James who has built a fortress out of his house and is prepared to wait out the purge, all with a firm understanding that he will not intervene. That is until an African American homeless man (Edgy!) comes running to their door begging for help from a mob of killers. James refuses to let him in, but his son Charlie saves him, prompting chaos in the house. Now the mob has reached the doors of James’ house and wants the man back to murder him, or else they will murder everyone in the house. But the killers aren’t so much moronic thugs, as they are prim, and upper class prep students with a high intelligence. Get it? It’s because they’re people you’d least likely expect to be violent. One thing that’s never made clear is what James’ intention is.
He refuses to help the homeless man but why? Does he believe in the purge? Does he want to save himself? Or does he just hate the homeless? And why do they build a fortress that’s capable of being infiltrated so easily, it’s laughable? At one point when the house is locking down, the daughter Zoey’s boyfriend breaks in to stay with her. Also why did the gang of killers announce their sheer intellect and ability to break in to the house without fail, only for them to come crashing in to the home and wreak havoc? What’s the point of the build up if they’re just random murderous cronies? “The Purge” left me with so many questions and utterly disappointed at the chance the Platinum Dunes had to deliver a thought provoking thriller, only to offer up a ham fisted half assed horror film with clunky social commentary. There’s still room for improvement with the concept, I hope future films realize it fully.