One film that people seem to give way too much credit to is The Purge. It’s not that people love this film, far from it actually. I just feel that any sort of praise given towards it’s ridiculous set of values is too generous.
The Purge takes place in the not too distant future, where the United States has created a law allowing all forms of murder for one night a year. This law, known as the purge, has decreased the national murder rate and has even stabilized the economy. From here, we focus in on James Sandin (Ethan Hawke) and his family, as they struggle to survive the purge.
I would like to start off by disputing a certain claim that many people like to make. That being, the purge could actually happen in real life. I think this assertion is downright ridiculous, and is a major flaw with this film.
In most situations I wouldn’t put so much emphasis on how the concept doesn’t make any sense, but the film really dwells on it. Many times during the film do the characters talk about how and why the purge rightfully works, as if they are trying to convince the viewer this could actually happen. That’s as if someone directed an Alice in Wonderland movie and proceeded to go out of their way to convince you it could exist in real life.
The Purge could’ve easily been a great satire, if only it embraced the over-the-top moments more. The main antagonist of The Purge does this extremely well, as his character reminds me of an exaggerated Bond villain. However, most of the over-the-top scenes just made the film look incredibly stupid. As I said before, when you try to make the purge look as realistic as possible to the audience, you can’t just throw in goofy moments, it offsets the mood.
In the end, what message was The Purge trying to get across? I don’t think every film needs an elaborate meaning, but something about The Purge just felt off. In some instances, it was as if the filmmakers were morally supporting the act of the purge. Even our main protagonists felt that killing millions one night a year was okay. However, since the tone and mood of The Purge were so sporadic, I’m sure I’ll never understand what the filmmakers were actually going for.
There are very large portions of The Purge that you could fast forward through and miss absolutely nothing. One scene in particular, where all the protagonists are slowly walking through a dark house, exemplifies this perfectly. The is little to no need for this entire eight minute sequence, where the characters do nothing but stalk around. It’s obvious that it was only put in the film to act as a runtime buffer.
There really isn’t much to say about any of the characters in The Purge, as they all felt pretty generic. They aren’t horribly written, but they’re pretty dull and forgettable.
The Purge is overall meaningless, morally inept, and it doesn’t even know how to get the horror-violence aspect right. The characters are boring, and nothing about the film is that scary. Except for the occasionally cool action sequence, I had The Purge was a muddled snooze-fest.
The Verdict: D-