The Purge

tn_purgeWhat if in the near future “unemployment is at 1%, crime is at an all time low, because one night a year” – on March 22nd, for a 12 hour period – “ALL CRIME IS LEGAL!”

You know, everybody gets all their rapes and murders out, everybody does their shoplifting and meth dealing, and public defecating and car theft and kidnapping and arson and all that, just let it loose on that day and unless you want to beat someone’s face in with a crowbar or jack off in front of your neighbors you just stay indoors and out of trouble. And all because of that 12 hours of mayhem the rest of the year the streets are so clean Paul Kersey could eat off ’em!

Other than on March 22nd, llife would be so much better. And we must consider the value of this trade off. Would an almost-year of peace be worth the dangers and moral complexities of that one day? Thinking about THE PURGE you can’t help but consider the ramifications of trying something like this, ’cause it would obviously work, right? Why haven’t we done this?

Admittedly I have some questions. Are people really goonna postpone all their crimes of passion until that period? Can serial killers hold it in that long? Do mentally ill people know how to schedule when to snap? Can the drug trade get all their work done in one day a year? And what are they gonna do with their 364 day weekend?

Screen Shot 2013-10-15 at 2.55.08 AMOkay, on second thought, but actually also on first thought, this premise doesn’t sound like it even halfway makes sense, and every time I saw this trailer it made me giggle like my name was Harry Knowles. That’s why I insisted on watching it now that it came out on discs. I have no clue how this premise ever got past the “dude, wouldn’t it be awesome if…” stage, let alone actually made into a professional movie by sober adults. There are supposed to be checks and balances to prevent that sort of thing from happening. This is just a really dumb idea.

Keep that in mind so you know “better than I expected” is not that big of a compliment here. But it is better than I expected.

mp_purgeThey don’t spend any time making it seem like it would work. They just tell you it does and you gotta accept it and move on with your life. Ethan Hakwe plays a guy who installs security systems. Obviously that’s a high paying job in a world where you better lock your ass up once a year or there’s a 100% chance of getting Clockwork Oranged. So he goes home to his family in his nice new home, they have dinner and then close the shields, turn the whole house into a panic room, holing up for a night in with the family, maybe watch a movie, occasionally glance at the wall of security monitors.

Trouble is the son (Max Burkholder) still has a conscience, so when he sees a guy (Edwin Hodge, DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE) outside screaming for help he lets him in. The neighbors narc them out and suddenly they have a gang of masked killers on their doorstep threatening to get a battering ram if they don’t give the guy up. Interestingly it’s not a matter of who to trust – we quickly find out this guy’s not lying, because the mask-people admit they want to kill him just ’cause he’s homeless and they think they’re improving the world by eliminating undesirables or whatever. So it’s really fucked up that dad wants to give him to them.

Here’s why I have some respect for the movie. I think some of what they’re saying within this dumb idea is actually pretty smart. This typical American family of 2022 is pretty okay with the fact that they’re safe because they have money, even though the logical extension of that is that poor people are not safe. The best part is when the son asks his parents (mom is Lena Headey from 300 and DREDD) why they don’t kill people during the Purge, as is their legal right. They wouldn’t do it themselves but they believe in the American system, so they have to awkwardly defend it. It’s like our wars or our capital punishment, we’ll go along with it and if we just stay home and mind our own business then our hands are clean, right? We can enjoy the hot dog without having to think about what’s in it.

Of course today the war is gonna come home, they end up having shootouts, beatings and hostage situations in their own house. They have to shoot the daughter’s boyfriend (it turns out The Purge can be dangerous for dads who don’t approve of their young daughters dating older men) and learn to defend an innocent victimized by the system. I think the class consciousness falters a little when it turns into their also-rich neighbors being jealous of their money. That seems like a Real Housewives Problem, not a real people one.

But the corniness of the home invaders was already losing me. They might be scary if they seemed like they thought they were the good guys. Instead the main guy (Rhys Wakefield) imitates Heath Ledger’s Joker and they wear ugly, self-consciously creepy smiling masks and play around outside like they somehow know they’re a a twisted parody of happy upper class white people. Pretty forced.The movie also sets up a potentially fun gimmick with the kid having a remote control robot he can use as a drone, but then it doesn’t do that much with it.

I will give props to Hawke, who has a little bit of that Kevin Bacon gene, he’s an Academy Award nominated actor but he keeps doing these kinda lowbrow movies and he gives them 100%, always elevating them. DAYBREAKERS was one where I actually think it was a good movie. SINISTER I thought had a corny monster and premise but I almost liked it because Hawke was so good in it, taking it all seriously even while wearing a ridiculous old man sweater. Probly his idea, too.

THE PURGE was written and directed by James DeMonaco, who it turns out wrote that Robin Williams/Francis Ford Copolla movie JACK, plus THE NEGOTIATOR and the sort of remake of ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13. Then he went into TV for a while and now here we are.

What if only one day out of the year they were allowed to release stupid movies like this?  The rest of the year it would be all masterpieces. Would it be worth it?

This entry was posted on Tuesday, October 15th, 2013 at 2:53 am and is filed under Reviews, Thriller. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

41 Responses to “The Purge”

  1. “What if only one day out of the year they were allowed to release stupid movies like this? The rest of the year it would be all masterpieces. Would it be worth it?”

    Sign me up.

  2. I still think this could have been a cool TWILIGHT ZONE episode. Premises like this work best in a surrounding that just gives you 25 minutes of “Okay, imagine that, what if…” instead of 90 minutes of “Damn, let’s hope that the audience doesn’t overthink that scenario, but of course they will, because we won’t give them a different story next week”.

    Also I wonder how many Americans in that movie will just drive across the border when The Purge happens. You don’t even have to go far. Just a few steps behind the Canadian border. Sleep in your car if you can’t afford a hotel. And come back in 12 hours, knowing that you just survived…THE PURGE!

  3. What, and participate in some filthy SOCIALIST purges? Possibly on ice skates? No way! Sure, I might get shot in the face for not being rich enough, but by God, it’ll be an AMERICAN bullet!

  4. The last three lines of this review made me laugh out loud. Bravo. *slow clap*

  5. I really fail to see how 1% unemployment rate correlates with a 12 hour free-for-all crime spree. I’m not an expert, but I think things like economics and sociopolitics and such are a bit more complex issues than something solved by letting people brain each other for a few hours a year.

    Maybe they kill the unemployed during the Purge. Guess that’s one way to fix the statistics.

  6. I was just disappointed that they bothered even coming up with this ridiculous Purge idea and then ended up making a movie that is just a home invasion movie, and one that’s not even that good. Obviously they are making a sequel cause this thing made oodles of cash on a miniscule budget, so Ijust hope The Purge 2 actually deals with, you know, the purge. That could be interesting.

    But it’ll probably just be another home invasion movie with another family. Woop-di-doo. I’ll just rewatch Home Alone. Or the end of Skyfall.

  7. I’d imagine the amount of money stolen during the Purge through electronic means would be staggering.

    I mean, I know that is what I’d be up to on Purge day.

  8. “I’d imagine the amount of money stolen during the Purge through electronic means would be staggering.

    I mean, I know that is what I’d be up to on Purge day.”

    That’s a good idea. I would try that too. Also, jaywalking. In years where I felt particularly saucy I’d exceed the speed limit in my vehicle.

  9. What marlow mentioned is probably my biggest problem with the concept of “the purge.” I mean, we’re talking about the end of the world economy. Every dollar of every private and corporate account gets drained into the Bahamas in one night, and the economy collapses. Maybe a few people wonder what it would be like to kill somebody, but EVERYBODY wants to be rich.

  10. Yeah, how does insurance work on The Purge? Imagine a guy wants to get some money from his insurance by burning down his little convenience store that night. He might say that someone else did it, but will they believe him? And what if there are witnesses? Maybe he strutted with a gas can through the streets, greeting his neighbours while he burned the building down and played DISCO INFERNO on full volume on his boom box. Can the insurance refuse to give him one single cent because he did something, that was perfectly legal?

    Also what do you think, how many “Punishers” are out there during The Purge? Y’know, people who at one hand are against the whole concept and try to uphold the law on their own that night, but on the other hand benefiting from the lawlessness of that time window, by just blowing the head off every jaywalker they meet?

  11. I don’t think the idea is really SUPPOSED to make sense, I think it’s just supposed to be scary

    and it’s a scary idea, don’t you think? what if one day every year there was no police, no firefighters, no ambulances, nothing to protect you except yourself

  12. I know every movie has it’s own pill you’ve got to swallow, but god, the concept of THE PURGE is a football-sized pill covered in razor blades and wrapped in barbed wire. It’s a huge barrier to entry for a fairly standard home invasion thriller and it doesn’t pay off in a way interesting enough to justify it. There are a thousand other ways they could have set this movie up more believably. Privatised cops going on strike like in ROBOCOP 2 (I always liked this idea). Massive rioting and societal breakdown in the wake of a natural distaster. Cops being furloughed due to an extended government shutdown. Etcetera.

  13. “Cops being furloughed due to an extended government shutdown.”

    oh dear

  14. I thought the movie was terrible. Besides the premise being silly, which I was willing to just buy, I thought the whole script wasn’t well thought out.


    I thought it would have been a cooler idea if the parents had participated in The Purge when they were younger, but now they’re settled down suburban parents. It being so long since they’ve participated the kids were too young to remember they ever did. Their wild days over. I think it would at least explain why Ethan Hawke’s character is so efficient at offing the bad guys. Maybe use that to create some sort of arc so when Lena Heady’s character makes that decision at the end it’s informed with the idea that she’s fully capable of that kind of violence but that she’s choosing a better path. Although making that decision it does seem like they’ll just wait until next year and come finish her off if they don’t move.

    I also thought they could have made more of the fact the security systems Hawke’s character had been selling all over, and in his own neighborhood, are easily bypassed. They set up that the bad guys need to acquire the tools in order to bypass their expensive, and as far as Hawke’s character is concerned, statistically effective systems, but all that amounts to is a truck and chains to take the metal barricade off. That was it? Those were the tools needed? Seems to me more could have easily been made out of that. Perhaps Hawke’s character maybe facing an ironic comeuppance of sorts by both having participated in Purges when he was young, and perhaps being responsible for the death of others on previous Purge nights by knowingly selling everyone shoddy systems for his own financial benefit.

  15. Looking back, this was the only genuinely fun time I had at the movies this year. Not high-brow by any stretch of the imagination, but as not to distant dystopian future what if suspense/action flicks go, acting-dialogue-storytelling-characterization wise, I thought it did its job pretty darned well. For this particular genre of film, the set-up certainly strikes me as interesting, if not airtight. So the drubbing here, with respect to the set-up, I find a bit surprising. I mean, in a culture that showers grown men with hero-worship for outstanding proficiency in running and jumping with rubber balls, the narrative premise of society responding to a chick who looks like Halle Berry and can toss lightening bolts with nothing but haterade *should* be pretty chuckle worthy. Yet we all seem to be able to roll with the X-flicks smoothly enough. Again, given the genre and the solid (IMO) execution, I don’t see why rollin with this premise for 90min was such an effort.

  16. I wanna watch Jake’s Purge movie.

  17. Look I haven’t seen this film, but you guys are crazy if you think the whole idea of the Purge is a dumb idea. It’s a GREAT idea. Are we to stop them from making movies with awesome concepts like this simply on the basis that they allegedly don’t make sense?

    “Are people really goonna postpone all their crimes of passion until that period? Can serial killers hold it in that long? Do mentally ill people know how to schedule when to snap? Can the drug trade get all their work done in one day a year? And what are they gonna do with their 364 day weekend?”
    Well we’ve never tried it, so we should be willing to stipulate that it would have the psychological effects the film claims.

    CJ: Movie takes place in 2022 right? Plenty of time for Canada to heavily militarize their border patrol. And insurance companies won’t recognize insurance claims from Purge day.

    HT: “I’m not an expert, but I think things like economics and sociopolitics …”
    I stopped reading when you said you weren’t an expert.

    marlow and Eddie Lummox: the banks just unplug their modem on Purge day.

    Are these really the “problems” you guys are having with the premise? Tssh.

  18. Jake: I like your ideas.

    renfield: I don’t know, dude. These kinds of things work best when they’re a logical extension of our current society. The idea of televised death races or walling off a section of New York into a huge prison are ridiculous, but you can see the through-line of how they got there. The idea of THE PURGE works against everything we know about crime and society. You have to fight to accept it, or at least I did. It only holds up if you believe that people commit crimes on a whim for fun and not because they are desperate or mentally ill or want to make easy money.

    You can put out logical spot fires all day long, but the premise fails the smell test on a very basic level.

  19. If there is no Purge insurance, wouldn’t the crime rate be higher? After all the amount of people who lost everything during The Purge, from their houses to their loved ones, must be damn high, so do you think these people, who now have to live on the street after some sickos burned their homes down and the insurance didn’t pay because of The Purge, would wait until the next Purge until they rob someone or take revenge on those who did it?

    Shit, do you think anybody will shrug it off when something horrible happens and say: “Oh those rascals who raped my daughter”? The US must be overrun by vigilante justice!

    Sorry, usually I’m the guy who overlooks plotholes or even finds obvious explanations for them, but this is just too absurd.

  20. Renfield: But WHY would the banks unplug their modems on purge night? The people who run the banks are the first ones who would think to drain the accounts. They’d basically just be fighting each other to be the one to do it.

  21. Didn’t they mention in the movie that certain individuals and essential services were off the limits during the Purge? I’d assume major financial institutions and such would be part of that to prevent total collapse of society.

  22. The more I think about, the more I would love to see a PURGE series on HBO or something, but focusing on the dark humored and satirical aspects of the concept. Every episode would follow a different group of people, who are either about to commit crimes or have to deal with them. Like my idea of a group of vigilantes, who kill “for the good cause” or a group of bank workers, who fight each other while trying to steal all their money from their workplace.

  23. I’m surprised no one commented on the very basic idea this (terrible) movie puts forth about ethnic cleansing. The government views it as problems clearing up, but it’s obvious that’s because of the “undesirables” (lower class minorities) being dispensed. The Purge is essentially an excuse for the haves to take their rage out on the have-nots, and the case the movie makes is that the Purge already happens every day. You think a guy like George Zimmerman has a problem with the Purge? You’d be surprised how many normal, mild-mannered people out there think, “Things would be better, if we just got rid of some of those… blacks and stuff.”

    I would be intrigued by the movie’s take on this if it weren’t 1) About a boring whitebread family 2) If the black guy wasn’t some HONORABLE RONIN who eventually saves the white people and then fades into the background, WITHOUT EVEN BEING GIVEN A NAME.

    The story makes NO sense, but the racial dynamics at play seem front and center, and it bothered me when I saw this with an enthusiastic cheering crowd. It’s a provocative idea, but it’s also dumb and ultimately insincere. Is it any surprise it’s from the assholes at Platinum Dunes?

  24. Fine I admit it, concept’s ridiculous.

    Ultimately the reason I couldn’t muster the interest to actually see the film is because of what Chris said: the crazy concept is just an excuse to maneuver the family into a subpar home invasion film. I’ll probably watch the Straw Dogs remake before I see this one.

  25. this movie MUST have begun life as a satire. The original title was Vigilandia, for crissakes. Then, somewhere along the way, someone decided that, “Hey, you know this utterly ridiculous concept that *only* works because we’re clearly using it as a satirical metaphor for modern social woes… what if we did it straight? Satire doesn’t sell, after all.”

    And I guess they were right because it did 40 million opening weekend.

    There’s a whole trend of movies being…not satires. Total Recall, Robocop, Starship Troopers, American Psycho, Deathrace (and prequels). All of these movies are being/were remade without the satire angle. It’s bizarre to me.

  26. Was anyone else bothered by the fact that the entire movie is shot in close ups and medium shots? There are no wide shots, very few establishing shots and no sense of geography as a result.

  27. it’s because people are stupid and wont get satire anymore

  28. Tawdry, your mention of the Robocop remake brought to mind this discouraging tidbit I read:


  29. The Original... Paul

    October 17th, 2013 at 2:28 pm

    I didn’t go to see this one because a lot of people on t’interwebs were saying exactly what you guys are saying now. Nice to know I was right not to waste my money. A pity, because it seems like a great premise to make a completely batshit-crazy movie, instead of an excuse for a basic home invasion story.

    Gabe – I haven’t seen “The Purge” but I know the gist of what you’re talking about. It always bothered me about “The Fugitive” that the protagonist was a rich white professional. Instead of, y’know, one of the many, many people who’ve been on Death Row and turned out to be innocent of the crimes they’ve committed, but nobody cared because they were poor or black. And I do think “The Fugitive” is a very good film indeed, that aspect of it just bothered me. (And yes, I know it was based on a much older TV show, etc. The movie’s still its own property though.)

  30. renfield: Yeah, my heart sank when I read that. I’d have loved to see Padhila’s real ROBOCOP film.

  31. Paul Kersery could find scum and vermin to exterminate any time or place. regardless of any silly purge.

  32. The final script for robocop is far better than the draft reviewed by drew mcweeny. But… It’s still… Not good. And they removed the one cool new idea, (recasting nancy Allen’s role as a male and then having robo think his wife has been fucking him).

    There are a few cool sounding action scenes and I didn’t want to bash my face into the wall after reading it, but it’s not a satire and I can’t imagine it will be financially successful.

  33. Well now that The Purge is officially a franchise, I figured I might as well give this one a try…and it’s not that bad! Sure, the sci-fi plot is undercooked and makes zero sense, and even as a standard home invasion movie, it fails on so many levels – both Straw Dogs and the Straw Dogs remake blow this one away in tension, scares, and cathartic violence. The kills are at least inventive, not a series of people getting shot, or people getting saved from being shot by another person shooting the shooter from behind (which happens like 5 times in this movie). Speaking of inventive violence, Home Alone is a better home invasion movie, and at least has better pacing and a better sense of spatial geography. The villains are also a joke -(they’re literally fratboys!) but I was kinda charmed by how ridiculous the leader’s dialogue was. “Send out he…or that (pointing to dead body)…will be thee!” may be the stupidest line of the last 5 years, but I couldn’t stop grinning everytime this Tosh.0 looking dude was onscreen. He’s awesome.

    I guess it doesn’t sound like I like this that much, and it’s definitely not “good”, but it’s entertaining and short and viewed as an introductory pilot episode to a TV show (or mini-series), it’s really not that bad – hopefully the sequel will explore the world better and answer a few of the questions glossed over so easily in this one. Also: part of me is kind of glad that Platinum Dunes has FINALLY made an original movie that people liked. The more Purges they make, the less chance of them rebooting Candyman or something else that would make my blood boil.

  34. This is Platinum Dunes? Did I know that? Yeah, it has all their names on it. Are we gonna get some pretty sunsets in the next one then?

    I think the sequel looks promising, actually. Once we’ve accepted the asinine concept of this world it’s a cool idea to do one about a guy going to revenge-purge some asshole purger who purged somebody close to him on a previous purge. And to have him played by Frank Grillo. I’m not clear though if that’s the main plot or a side plot, since some of the trailers are about some other characters.

  35. I just watched the first one. It was decent. I liked the ending, with the rich assholes using the night to settle some petty scores. I liked that it addressed the idea that even in a world where murder is legal for one night, you’ll still need to live with yourself and your neighbors the next day. Talk about awkward.

    The whole movie probably would have pissed me off for expecting me to care more about this one shitty rich family when just a mile down the road poor people were getting slaughtered in their dozens, but since I already knew that’s what the sequel is about, I let it slide. This one was like the white guy in a samurai movie: there as a gateway to get Americans to care about people they normally aren’t interested in.

  36. Neal — to me, the best thing about the movie is that the ridiculous premise necessitates a much more subtle and interesting dynamic: these people have to be nice to each other the remaining 364 days of the year. Everything’s legal on Purge night so you can’t complain about them wrecking your house or trying to kill you. But now you’ve gotta look at them every day knowing that if they could, they would murder you and never regret it. That’s why that ending at the table elevates a pretty by-the-numbers home invasion thriller into something a bit more memorable.

  37. Saw the Purge II last night and not to overhype it, but it’s awesome. It expands on the mythology in a way barely hinted at in the first one (maybe too much), it gives us solid characters we care about, and Grillo is the shit as always. It’s a tough act to pull off the “man of few words” schtick while still being charismatic, but he does it with ease. I’m a sucker for Judgment Night/The Night Before/Adventures in Babysitting-type movies, and this one delivers all that plus a dash of Hard Target and They Live. The action isn’t much to look at (it’s incredibly dark and shakycammed) but for some reason I didn’t mind, maybe because this feels like a horror/character piece and not an action movie.

    This was a huge crowd-pleaser; everyone in the audience ate every single moment up. I heard alot of fanboys in the theatre afterwards saying “This is the movie the first one should have been” (a sentiment everyone is saying online too) but I have to disagree – Mr. Majestyk pointed out the first one is like the gateway drug into the world – it eases us in to this ridiculous premise and tells it from the perspective of people that, like it or not, are closer to you and me than the people the Purge is designed to get rid of. (Don’t get me wrong, I don’t live in a gated community or anything, but I think anyone using the internet to comment on a movie forum is doing fairly ok for themselves, all things considered) Starting with something with the scope of the second one would have been too much too soon – it’s like saying “World War Z is the movie Night of the Living Dead should have been.”

    Side note: The Purge 1 is no masterpiece (it’s not even particularly “good”), but I maintain if the internet was around in ’68, I get the feeling nerds would be like Night of the Living Dead SUUUCCCKS! “Why did they set up this huge zombie apocalypse and we’re stuck in this one house with like 5 people?? What’s the military doing?? Where’s the big zombie battles?? Where are the scientists working on the cure!? Thanks for squandering your potential, Romero!!!”

  38. Hated everything past the first 20 minutes or so of the first movie (OK, the ending was also kind of interesting), but I thoroughly enjoyed PURGE: ANARCHY, which has to be the biggest improvement I’ve ever seen from a sequel. Very redolent of local favourite PUNISHER: WAR ZONE. Not sure if it’s the movie the first movie should have been (I can see both sides), but it shows THE HUNGER GAMESes a thing or two.

  39. Platinum Dunes continues its “original” streak with Project Almanac, which is inoffensive and watchable without being particularly good. It’s entirely unoriginal, literally “Chronicle except with Time Travel”, but as with The Purge, I fully support anything Platinum Dunes does that keeps them too busy to remake more beloved horror movies.

    Note: Maybe I’ve seen too many time travel movies, but this may be the most twist-less and straightforward one to date. I don’t think there’s a single thing that hasn’t already happened in Groundhog Day, Edge of Tomorrow, or Butterfly Effect, and doesn’t even come close to mind-benders like Primer, Timecrimes, or even Back to the Future II. This may be the first time travel movie where I didn’t spend one minute thinking about it afterwards – it’s like a beginner’s movie for people who’ve never seen a time-travel movie before. The audience I was with ate it up though. Still, keep up the OK work, Platinum Dunes!

  40. The Original Paul

    February 1st, 2015 at 6:14 pm

    Neal – your last-but-one comment is interesting because a lot of people hated NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD when it first came out, most critics included. The same thing can be said of SCARFACE, THE THING, and HOSTEL (that last movie is only just beginning to get some of the recognition it deserves). Hell, even HALLOWEEN had a lot of detractors at the time (didn’t Roger Ebert hate that one? Or am I thinking of a different movie?)

    And I can’t agree with you about Platinum Dunes. When I said that Marvel Studios was becoming more and more like them, there’s a reason why I meant it as an insult. I’ve yet to see any evidence whatsoever that they’re capable of producing a film with what I’d consider to be an actual artistic reason to exist.

  41. Paul – Oh don’t get me wrong. A quick look at the Platinum Dunes wikipedia reveals a list of everything wrong with Hollywood today – nothing but remakes, sequels to the remakes, a movie based off a toy (Ouija) and a remake of a movie based off a toy (TMNT, which will soon have a sequel.) I’m just happy they’ve seemed to move away from the horror movie remake train and are now at least producing a handful of “original” yet derivative films. So yeah, I’m giving them a thumbs up the way you grade the paint-eating kid on a curve.

    In terms of have they made a movie with an “artistic reason to exist?” I do like both Purges (and appreciate how the second one is like a Hunger Games for adults and makes the first one so much better) and I THINK I liked Horsemen but can’t remember much about it. Never seen The Unborn, but think it’s weird that David Goyer made a small horror movie right after The Dark Knight with Gary Oldman and Idris Elba and it made a decent amount of money yet I’ve never seen a commercial for it and have never heard a word about it.

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