I am not a huge fan of Ethan Hawke (his teeth annoy me) much less his movies, so imagine how surprised I was when I saw the trailer for his latest psychological thriller movie The Purge and decided to give it a shot. Boy, was I wrong. Not only did I waste 85 minutes of my life I can’t get back, this movie was neither psychological nor a thriller as it left me with many unanswered questions and if possible, even less of a fan of Ethan Hawke, his teeth, and his movies.
Directed by James Demonaco, the basis of the film certainly seemed promising. Set in the near future of 2022, we find the United States is now under the regime of a group of elected officials who bear the title “New Founding Fathers.” The New Founding Fathers have initiated a new law, called the Purge, which is observed once a year on the 21st of March for 12 hours. During the Purge, all laws are suspended and the citizens of America can give into their primal instincts or, as they say, release their “inner demons” by raping, murdering, maiming, and generally brutalizing one another. Somehow, due to this system, the United States’ economy booms.
Ethan Hawke’s character James Sandin makes a living selling security systems to protect against the Purge. James, wife Mary (Lena Headey) and their two children (teenaged daughter Zoey and their young son Charlie) live in an affluent neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA. As purge time draws near, the family locks down their home and gathers in the viewing room to watch the Purge on several monitors they have set up. They believe they are safe from the violence happening outside. Not so. Trouble soon arrives as Charlie disables the security system to help a homeless man (Edwin Hodge), who is begging for sanctuary in the street. James gets the security system back up just in time as a group of masked killers arrive pounding on the door and giving the Sandin’s family an ultimatum: turn the man over or they will break down the door and kill everyone in the house.
As the story moves forward, you realize that the Purge seems more about killing off those who can’t defend themselves such as the poor, elderly, homeless, and sick. Thus, “decreasing the surplus population” as Scrooge says.
At this point in the film the pacing became erratic. Even with the introduction of more characters, I almost found myself rooting for the group in masks in hopes that their victory would end this movie. Sadly, even the masked killers did nothing for me; they were too reminiscent of the Strangers (starring Scott Speedman and Liv Tyler) except they weren’t scary. They looked like a bunch of hippies on acid with really annoying, twerpy voices led by a preppy dude (Rhys Wakefield) who looks like he is trying to do his best rendition of the Joker. Not happening.
In the end, everyone gets in and death ensues. The Purge does deliver a nice plot twist or two and ends with the shocking death of Hawke’s character. But, it failed to deliver what would otherwise be a good premise with a weak predictable script, making it just another home invasion movie with lots of overkill. How this movie is deserving of a sequel coming this July (The Purge: Anarchy) is beyond me. I snooze with anticipation.