The Purge Flunks Philosophy to Favor Fright
- Friday, June 07, 2013
DVD Release Date: October 4, 2013
Theatrical Release Date: June 7, 2013
Rating: R for strong disturbing violence and some language
Run Time: 85 min.
Director: James DeMonaco
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey, Max Burkholder, Adelaide Kane, Edwin Hodge, Rhys Wakefield
The 2012 film Compliance suggested that human beings can be prodded to commit degrading acts against others when prompted under the guise of authority. The film was controversial, but despite being based on a real incident, it badly stretched believability—to the point that it kept viewers at a distance from the proceedings, observing and questioning rather than feeling as though they had a role (and hence, some culpability) in what was happening on screen.
The Purge, written and directed by James DeMonaco, tries to make us ask whether we might be, at root, violent beings capable of the worst crimes against other people. The story is set in 2022, when America is, we’re told, "a nation reborn" thanks to the Purge: an annual 12-hour event when everyone is encouraged to "release the beast." That is, they can kill, maim and commit all manner of crime, without any fear of repercussions. No law enforcement or emergency services will be on call. It’s every man for himself.
The result? America has an all-time lowest crime rate. Citizens claim the Purge "saved our country," and that we need to "remember all the good the Purge does." Some characters credit the Purge with weeding out the criminal element of society, while critics claim the Purge boils down to the elimination of the needy.
James Sandin (Ethan Hawke, Brooklyn's Finest) is no critic of the Purge. A successful security system salesman, James plans to ride out the night in his spacious home, which has recently grown more spacious with a new addition—thanks, a neighbor says, to all the security systems he sold to everyone in their community. James's biggest problems are his son Charlie's (Max Burkholder) withdrawn nature (his closest companion is a deformed doll named Timmy) and a daughter, Zoe (Adelaide Kane), who harbors a rebellious streak and a boyfriend who doesn’t get along with James.
As for the threats outside his home and neighborhood, James isn’t concerned. His security system will keep his family safe. "We can afford protection," he tells his wife, Mary (Lena Headey, 300). "We’ll be fine as always."
But if that were the case, there would be no movie.
The trouble starts when Charlie, watching a video feed of the happenings outside the family abode, sees a wounded man begging for help. He's on the run from an unseen mob, and Charlie, without asking permission of anyone, opens the home to the man. Soon a gang of thugs appears outside the Sandins' door. Led by a menacing blonde (Rhys Wakefield, Sanctum), they demand that James release the "dirty homeless pig." Hand him over, or they will break into the home and kill James and his loved ones.
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