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James DeMonaco’s THE PURGE sported a crafty initial premise, one that brought up themes of social class, white bread middle class double standards and of course humanity’s inherent violent nature. It reminded of that oh so true quote by Conan creator Robert E. Howard : “Barbarianism is the natural state of mankind. Civilization is unnatural. It is the whim of circumstance. And barbarianism must ultimately triumph”.
With that stabbed; aside from a couple of cynical winks here and there and some glimpses of healthy brutal “purging” on TV monitors, the film wasn’t too interested in exploring that shite or even HOW the Purge came to be (I’m sure if I really think about it, there’s all kind of holes in that basis, but hey, I’m not that guy, I went with it). It was all about being a standard home invasion thriller. And you know what? That was okay. I got no problem switching my brain off (very easy for me, one brain cell left) and having fun and that’s what I did here. THE PURGE rolled on fast via an easy pace. I was never bored while watching it. It surely helped that it was about 80 minutes long. No fat on that bone senor! DeMonaco put out a serviceable show behind the camera, the cinematography was appropriately gloomy and suspense was in the house. I actually caught myself on the edge of my seat a couple of times, so the film did some things right.
And when it opened up its can of whoopass, it went all out! Yes I was the a-hole that clapped when mooks got whacked left and right! All about Ethan Hawke doing the human laundry shotgun style! I cheered at least twice during that scene, easily my favourite bit out of the whole picture! Speaking of the Hawke man! He was on the ball once again here via his intense, affable and credible performance. Hawke’s character arc in particular was a gripping one. The worse the situation got the more his repressed dark side surfaced. I appreciated the moral questions that came out of that. Moreover, it was swell to witness Lena Headley playing a regular housewife. The role was somewhat against type for her. In lesser hands it could have been a bore, but Headey brought it and gave layers to the character that weren’t on the written page.
Speaking of acting, Edwin Hodge was efficient as the stranger with death on his tail but my special shout-out goes out to Rhys Wakefield who played the lead bad-guy “Polite Man”. What he did with the gleefully villainous role was pure genius! He had the preppy look, the creepy smile and the chipper yet nutty delivery down pat! He created a truly memorable character. Good stuff! Add to all that hefty servings of effective bleak humor, random clever dialogue, a gnarly use of creepy masks on the purgers to up the brrr factor and a couple of surprise “violent” moments that had me laugh out loud (I always laugh at extreme violence in movies, not sure why, ask my shrink, who’s dead now) and you get an uneven, yet still amusing sit down!
THE PURGE needed a good script polish though. Its connect the dot set up was transparent to say the least. Anybody that’s seen more than five home invasion movies will spot this one placing its pawns and know where they’re gonna go. Predictable was the word! The dumb and trivial actions to serve the plot were abundant too, especially when it came to that grating son character (Max Burkholder) that kept doing all the wrong moves. Dude, who’s team are you on? Somebody spank that kid and teach him to know his place already! He infuriated me. The same went with the “I’m an angry and rebellious” (Zzzzzzz) teen daughter ably tackled by hottie Adelaide Kane. Talk about a walking cliche!
Yo, your dad is trying to protect your ass, show some goddamn respect! Thankfully she vanished for the middle section of the movie. On top of that, they overdid one gimmick here: somebody is about to get shot, then suddenly someone else appears behind them and saves the would be victim. It lost its luster at the third time. Change it up man! Finally, how the hell did the parents keep losing their kids all the time? Don’t you know your own house? Why did the kids keep running off in the first place? Oh yeah! To force the story in the direction it had to go. Ah okay. Got it! Yeah the script didn’t do anybody any favors.
On the whole though, even with its flaws, I got a couple of sick kicks out of THE PURGE. It could have been more than a cookie cutter home invasion thriller with a low IQ, but hey for what it was, it was all right. See it on DVD, Blu-ray, VOD or whatever other f*cking home movie format there is out there! PURGE THIS!