Craig's Movie Breakdown: "The Purge"
on 2013-06-05 10:26
The pitch for this one must have been “Panic Room” meets “Funny Games”, but “The Purge”, which counts Michael Bay as one of its producers, could very well be one of the summers more original films. It’s the directorial debut of James DeMonaco (who also wrote it), writer of the Robin Williams schmaltz-fest “Jack”, the underrated Samuel Jackson-Kevin Spacey thriller “The Negotiator”, and the 2005 remake of “Assault on Precinct 13”. He’s been fairly quiet since then. He’s back together again with his “13” leading man Ethan Hawke (currently in the best film of the year “Before Midnight”), who has been transferring from indie flick to horror flick pretty steadily since 2009’s “Daybreakers”.
It’s the year 2022. Violence is down and unemployment is as 1%, both attributed to the purge, an opportunity one night a year where crime is made legal and everyone is allowed the chance to get some aggression out. James Sandin (Hawke) has been made rich by selling high end security systems, most of which to his equally rich neighbors, but on this night, he, his wife (Lena Headey, “Game of Thrones”) and two children (Max Burkholder, Adelaide Kane) will be set upon by preppie psychopaths wanting to get at something hidden in the Sandin household.
“The Purge” may be the most ambitious horror movie this year, not saying much I know, but DeMonaco’s film is intense and has a few things to say on our violent culture. The purge itself? Not so much. The very concept of murder doesn’t seem like it can be contained and certainly DeMonaco spends very little time explaining how one day makes it easier for the other 364 days to go off without anyone exploding in an outburst of insanity, anger, desperation? If anything the purge just seems like an opportunity for murder novices to get a few mulligans. (I did laugh out loud at the one rule: “You can’t kill government officials.” So even in the not-too-distant future the government is still coming up with penaltys that don’t apply to them”) Where “Purge” really succeeds is in setting the mood (vacant hallways, a creepy doll camera, the power eventually goes out putting the house into darkness), presenting ideas of both ethnic and poverty cleansing, and really putting all those comforts (living in “this” neighborhood, owning this security system, holding this gun) we think we have into perspective, making a situation that is most terrifying and unexpected. It’s also a bit of “what would you do?” as the Sandin’s are made to make some cold-blooded decisions for their own survival and Hawke will get a few shocks and cheers as this embattled father. And while there is bloody violence, the movie is well- aware that the point here is a plea for sanity in an insanely violent world, which is a rare position for a horror film but it works. Yes you would expect a top-flight security system to be more top-flight than the one here and why do the killers need masks on this night when everything is legal but really “The Purge” wins us over for what’s on its mind rather than the, sometimes, imperfect way it puts those thoughts into action.