Directed by James DeMonaco
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey, Max Burkholder
It's somewhat difficult to find a unique, original idea that is clever enough to peak interest based solely on a few advertisements. But, that's just what James DeMonaco was able to do with The Purge, the new $30 million grossing horror/thriller from the producers of Paranormal Activity. Though the genre film contains a clever concept (albeit one slightly taken from Flannery O'Connor's classic short story The Lottery) and can now boast of a #1 weekend, the film fails to capitalize on its concept and, instead, delivers a sub-par thriller without many thrills.
The film stars Ethan Hawke and a cast of TV actors (Lena Headey, Max Burkholder, and newcomer Adelaide Kane) in a 2022 America where, once a year, the country celebrates "the purge", a 12 hour free period for society to enact on its internal rages. With few rules in place, all crimes are basically permissible. Hawke's James Sandin is the ultimate family man/business man, making a living for his nice, suburban family by selling top market security systems. This is no doubt a recently generous career thanks to the purge. As families look towards this once a year event, they want to be secured as much as possible in their homes. Sandin's security systems make any house an over-the-top panic room, with steel walls and barriers dropping in front of doors and windows at the touch of a button. But, does this protection actually protect? No spoiler here: no, it doesn't. Sandin's son (Burkholder) lets in an injured homeless man at the peak of the purge which then starts retaliation from the man's attackers. The Sandins must choose between protecting the injured or themselves.
The film begins with an interesting set up to the plot, full of scenes of murder and violence from security cameras around the country. The following scenes of Sandin returning home from work and his wife and children doing their normal afternoon routines before the evening's events are interesting enough. Where DeMonaco fails to deliver begins shortly after. There's never any story given as to why people are choosing to kill (despite a try at the end). While I can understand wanting to get some anger out of your system, wouldn't the story have been better if there were murders of revenge or employees enacting pain on their bosses or a cheating lover murdering the other to keep them from finding out? Where's the drama?
DeMonaco does deliver a few good scares throughout the story, but everything feels overdone and uninteresting throughout. It winds up being a promising plot, but a disappointing product. I'd suggest saving your money and waiting to see it at home.
Cheers to Blumhouse Productions and Universal, though, in creating, yet again, a film with a generous enough premise to put people in seats on opening weekend and recouping their budget. They've become pros at making a buck from lower quality deliverings.
Runtime: 85 minutes