The Purge (2013)


Please let this happen so I can unleash the beast. And no, not my penis. That’s always unleashed.

It is the year 2022, and our story takes place in upper-class, white America where a small family lead by Mary and James (Lena Headey and Ethan Hawke) talk about their day and joke around with one another, all over a finely-cooked dinner. However, this night is different. Very different in fact, mostly because tonight is the night that everybody in America knows as “The Purge”, a 12 hour window in which all crime is legal, in the hopes that it will not only cure any type of anger or frustrations fellow Americans may have across the country, but knock down crime, unemployment, and poverty as well. It seems to be working, but as this small, well-meaning family is about to witness: the night is about to get very, very wild.

When it comes to making sci-fi/horror movies about the dystopian future we may, or may not, have come to reality any time soon; this movie definitely ranks up among the most interesting. By the way our countries been going as of late, it would be no surprise that the government would begin to start and let stuff like this just happen, rather than spending all of their time and effort just prolonging the problem. Hell, it would definitely put down some boundaries with gun-control too, so therefore: almost everybody would be happy. Then again, I’d be very surprised by our government if they allowed something as vial and inhumane like “the Purge” to actually take presence in our country, but that’s not what matters when it comes to movies.

"After this is over, we really have to talk to that electricity guy."
“After this is over, we really have to talk to that electricity guy.”

What matters is how interestingly you can place an idea, how well you can run with it, and how many thoughts, ideas, questions, and solutions you can have it’s audience argue about on the way home, where they can hopefully get so heated between one another that they start to get a little wild too and even go so far as to kill one another as well. A bit too crazy? Yeah, I thought so, but still, that’s what really matters with movies like these, no matter how far-fetched or insane they may truly be. It’s an interesting idea that will peak anybody’s interest to see just how it all plays out, why it works for the country, why the government continues to allow it to happen, and why the hell are so many people this angry, all of the fucking time if unemployment and crime is down?

However, those are the types of questions that writer/director James DeMonaco jots down little ideas about here and there, but doesn’t feel the need to go any further with them, other than to present us with them and have us think, “Wow. Heavy stuff, man.” It doesn’t work, and becomes more and more noticeable once you realize that this is more or less just another home-invasion thriller in the same vein as The Strangers or Straw Dogs, but made with a slight twist to have all of the horror-junkies go crazy over and spend tons and tons of bucks on. I’ll wait to see if it actually works, but something tells me it will because DeMonaco has really stopped us with this one. I mean that in the bad sense, too. Not in the good, “so-stooped-I-can’t-stop-thinking-about-it”-sense.

For instance, one of the main draws of this movie are the villains who seem so evil and mysterious, that they wear strange masks when they get ready to mess with and torment this family. However, they just so happen to be wearing the masks on Purge night, which means that all crime is legal, so why the hell even bother with them? But their appearance is only half of the problem, because once the killing and slashing begins, then the movie becomes just another, “don’t look behind that corner” type of movie. Not only does it seem so easy for these killers to break into this house that was supposed to be so heavily boarded-up, that almost nobody could Purge in it, but it seems even easier to get killed, if you continue to run throughout the house with a flash-light on, when it’s pretty damn obvious that the house you’re stuck in, has no electricity and is filled with masked and dangerous killers, just waiting for you at every turn.

"Hiya, I got an order for two large ones, one with toppings and one witho.....awww who am I kidding?!?! Let me the fuck in!!"
“Hiya, I got an order for two large ones, one with toppings and one witho…..awww who am I kidding?!?! Let me the fuck in!!”

Once again, like most horror movies, the movie continues and continues to make the dumb mistakes that I hate to see, but this time it felt more serious than that. The movie has a lot of potential to be mindful of what it’s trying to say, how it’s trying to say it, and why, but it never goes any further into the subject than that. It presents the ideas and lets them scurry away, just as each and every new character is killed off in a fashion that is pretty cool and entertaining to watch in a slightly sadistic, flesh-eating way, but also feels shallow as if the movie is trying to make us feel bad for wanting to see it and being pleased once we do actually get it. It’s sort of like Funny Games in that aspect, but just mentioning that movie in the same review of this, only makes me feel like I slapped that one in the face with a knife. Sorry, Michael Haneke. No disrespect meant.

If there is any type of glue in this movie holding it together, it’s Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey who seem like they are not only too good for this material, but more thought-provoking than even itself is. Hawke is a nice fit as the upper-class, richie-rich daddy that seems to have it all but yet, also has a bit of a hot-streak that not only continues to boil up throughout this movie, but gets to a point of where it’s Ethan Hawke, like you have never seen him before. The guy’s awesome at playing a bad-ass whenever he’s called upon to act like one in many of his movies, but here; he really felt involved with it. But he doesn’t forget to show us the human-side of this dude that not only cares about his family and keeping them, as well as himself alive, but for the sake of humanity as well. If you think about it, in a world where everybody is allowed to murder and kill as much as they want, for a certain amount of time, who is he to join in on the fun? And if he does, what type of example is he not only setting for his kids, but the rest of the country as well? That Ethan Hawke, man. The dude’s a class-A actor.

Whereas Lena Headey who plays his wife, not only shares that same nobility of hers, but is more against the violence than anybody else in this movie. It’s strange to think that such a wicked bad-ass like Headey would take a character that’s probably the least, bad-ass-ish of them all, but she owns it, and shows that even though she lives in a world where crazy shite like this does occur, she too can keep her head above the water. By the end of the movie, she and Hawke’s character go through some sort of transformations that don’t seem all that reasonable and believable, but at least together, they keep the movie running, somewhat smart, and thrilling. That is, when they are on-screen and demanding it. When it isn’t them, well then, that’s when things go awry.

Consensus: The thought-provoking ideas and points about modern-day society and where we are headed, are touched on and brought up in the beginning of the Purge, but are soon thrown down the ground in place for a bunch of horror movie conventions like jump-scares, people showing up when it’s most convenient, and long scenes of people walking through lightly-dimmed hallways, not knowing who’s going to be on the other side. Yep, seen it all before, except maybe not with Lena Headey and Ethan Hawke doing all of the walking, killing, and thinking.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

If a bunch of masked, and demented killers were running rampant in my house, I too would hide under the bed. It's so obvious, they don't even bother anymore.
If a bunch of masked, and demented killers were running rampant in my house, I too would hide under the bed. It’s so obvious, they don’t even bother anymore.
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51 comments

  1. Thanks for your comment on our review. Glad to see other people writing about it because I wanted to see some other opinions. Hawke was great. That scene at the beginning around the dinner table made me want to watch a family movie about ‘Richie Rich’ dad becoming a good father rather than obsessed with money because it was so organic. That scene was amazing, and maybe that’s why I found the rest a complete mess. Good review, Dan!

  2. Good review Dan. I kind of confirmed some of my suspicions, though I wouldn’t have thought that Hawke would be as good as you say. Might be worth a rental just to see he and Heady do well together. Thanks!

  3. Seems like a decent concept for a movie, one that as you say, could and should provoke a lot of discussion. I’m not surprised to hear that it doesn’t explore those ideas as much as it should. You’re right that actors like Hawke and Headey seem too good for this type of movie. I’m glad to hear that they help keep this thing together. I normally enjoy films where good people are pushed to and past their moral limits when faced with tough situations, but I’m not sure I’ll bother with this one.

  4. Okay, Dan. You talked me out of this one, so I’m glad I can save my money for something better! Good review..I didn’t know what this movie really entailed beside Ethan Hawke and creeps in masks, but the concept is pretty interesting…too bad it fell short :\

  5. The premise was good but when a movie is confined to a house it’s pretty easy to run out of stuff to do. Now take that same premise and give us a bird’s eye view of say, a city, during the Purge and it becomes much easier to keep everybody engaged. That’s a movie I’d sit through.

    • That’s the type of movie I wish we had, but we didn’t. Instead, we just had a bunch of people running and killing throughout a house that’s so huge, that almost nobody can find one another in it.

  6. I’m just having trouble wrapping my head around the whole premise of this movie – and I watch giant monster movies and mythology movies. I guess the difference is, those types of films don’t have such a serious tone. I might not even watch The Purge for free on tv.

  7. […] “The thought-provoking ideas and points about modern-day society and where we are headed, are touched on and brought up in the beginning of the Purge, but are soon thrown down the ground in place for a bunch of horror movie conventions” – Dan The Man’s Movie Reviews […]

  8. I must be one of the few who thinks the concept is stupid, since there were big line-ups outside the theater for this last night. It does seem weird that they develop a concept like this and essentially use it for just another break-in horror.,

  9. Saw the trailer to this and my interest level was really high – some of my favorite dramatic actors are in this, but to hear that it’s a bit of a mess is disappointing. Ahh well, I’ll still check it out, just keep my expectations appropriately low….

  10. I think they bring up the “high concept” enough to place it in people’s minds, and then let the events of the night play out the rest of the metaphor. This is the harm of the evil policy revisiting those who benefitted from it. The “Dog eat Dog” mentality that Is so often advocated for in capitalist society eating ALL the dogs, even the big ones.

    It’s not the worlds most subtle thing, or the best written. But the food for thought is more than you get in most horror movies! 😯

    • I can see that idea, but for me; it just did not mix well a bit. There just seemed to be less and less originality put into it once time got going.

  11. Looks like we’re eye-to-eye on this one. There’s a kernel of a good idea in there, but it’s lost in typical horror/thriller cliches. Such a shame. This could have been great. Oh well…

  12. You nail this one on the head practically, Dan. I was anticipating this, so it’s a disappointment. I love horror movies and good concepts, so I was intrigued when I first heard of this. Fine cast, but it all feels a little too familiar… The characters’ decisions began to frustrate me more than the usual horror movie, lol. Ethan Hawke is always great, agreed. I thought that Rhys Wakefield guy played a pretty effective villain, here, too! I know I’d be creeped out by him. Those masks really are pointless, lol.

    Hopefully You’re Next doesn’t disappoint as much as this one!!

  13. Great review Dan, I have to admit I only went to see it because Headey and Hawke were in it, and yes, it throws out some great ideas and then abandons them all for a standard fare horror.

  14. The ephors of Sparta used to ritually declare war on the Helots, their slaves, once a year so that Spartan citizens could kill any Helot they wanted to without incurring the guilt of murder. I really thought that The Purge was going to be inspired by that historical reality, and there’s some elements of politico-economic satire in the first act but thereafter… Still, I enjoyed seeing Ethan Hawke kick ass.

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