Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Review: The Purge

Release Date: June 7, 2013

Running Time: 85 minutes
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey, Max Burkholder
Who to see it with: Someone who likes suspenseful, semi violent movies


The Purge tells the tale of 2022 America devoid of crime and unemployment. The key to this miraculous transformation is an annual event called the Purge, a 12 hour window where all crime is legal. This allows society, for one night, to release all their pent up tension and rage. The movie follows one family during this perplexing night, which starts off normal but takes an unfortunate turn from bad to worse. For a movie about a 12 hour crime spree, the Purge is actually surprisingly slow-paced. There is a ton of buildup leading to the more exciting part of the movie; if you love tension, then you'll probably love the first 30 to 40 minutes of the Purge. Then, after that, the actual fighting seems to be over too quickly and leaves you feeling a little disappointed (but then again, maybe this is a metaphor for the Purge ritual itself). I feel like the entire second half of the movie could have been more exciting if the fights were drawn out and the home invasion had some additional twists and story arcs. 

The acting itself is very good; everyone is convincing and the creepy Tony Oller provides a very welcome sense of unease to the overall story. But unfortunately, the story itself can't overcome the interesting--if perplexing--setup. The characters make some pretty terrible decisions throughout the movie, but not in the good horror movie way where the audience knows what is coming and can't stop them. These choices are just bad. And some of the invaders have an absurdity to them that is enjoyable at the start, but seems boneheaded towards the end. In summary, the plot doesn't make much sense, the second half of the movie is over too quickly, and the plot twists are pretty predictable. Finally, there are weird political overtones throughout the movie. They are done well at first but by the end you get a little sick of it. The Purge could have been an interesting and suspenseful thriller but ends up being a great buildup that falls flat.

Don't See it.


I agree that The Purge starts strong and becomes progressively weaker but the interesting, and admittedly absurd, premise kept me engaged for, at least, the first hour. I particularly liked the first act which felt like a bizarre parody of suburbia, and appreciated the exploration of the Purge's moral and social implications. I don't think the political overtones were overbearing throughout the entire movie. Most of the story's thoughtfulness is left behind during the action-packed third act, though those themes return during the closing minutes. I don't think the story would benefit from more action. The protagonists are a fairly typical suburban family. A long battle would have required them to be unusually talented fighters or felt like an R-rated Home Alone climax, which would have been amusing but unconvincing. It's disappointing, but the unique concept and sometimes clever writing are worth a watch.

Rent it.

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