In Review: The Purge

by Martyn Conterio on 30/05/2013

the purge

The Purge can best be described as a wasted opportunity. A mountain of clichés and lame plotting put the dampener on a dystopian sci-fi flick with a smart premise, or rather, an imaginative take on voyeurism and spectatorship.

On one specific night of the year, June 7th into 8th, in America, homicide is permissible for 12 hours. The emergency services take a well-earned breather, put their feet up and let chaos reign. That isn’t the intriguing part, however, because, as movie ideas go, it’s pretty daft. What makes the film (hypothetically) engaging is the response to the socio-political scenario by the characters. The early scenes of Ethan Hawke’s wealthy family man, alone in his office watching the board of monitors and preparing for lockdown, suggests a movie that never arrives. Hints of Pasolini’s Salò are tantalisingly echoed, in so much as remotely positioned figures view live scenes of sickening degradation and violence from the comfort of their own room. (They might even get off on it.)

Sandin and his brood believe they are physically and mentally secure from the barbarous goings-on outside and will spend the night watching movies, drinking soda and munching on Kettle Chips, as their neighbourhood and the entire country partakes in a marathon of murder.

It would be unfair to suggest The Purge is an entirely empty-headed affair because within the narrative and genre framework, a lot is going on. Unfortunately, it ignores points of rich subtext to find succour in the arms of the home invasion movie. Audiences will easily identify with a man shooting another man trepassing on his sacred, Ikea bedecked turf than any highfalutin social commentary. The makers, therefore, are not interested in the more rewarding tributaries of their tale.

Into the second act, a gang of angel-faced killers turn up at the Sandins’ door, all preppy good manners and vile Social-Darwinist attitudes, along with Manson Family-esque acolytes in flowery dresses, waving their machetes and guns. The film grows less and less engaging as mild-mannered James Sandin and his family turn into action zeroes.

Martyn has awarded The Purge two Torches of Truth


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