Susan Granger review of “The Purge” (Universal Pictures)
Admittedly, the satirical premise of this sci/fi horror story is provocative. In 2022, when the
unemployment rate is at one percent and the poverty rate below five percent, the US Government under the New Founding Fathers of America has legalized all crime, including homicide, for one 12-hour period a year to serve as a national catharsis for society’s knife-wielding, gun-toting maniacs, allowing them to commit acts of violence with no fear of retribution. So, according to the 28th Amendment, from 7 pm on March 21 to 7 am on March 22, anything goes. It’s “Release the Beast” time in a “nation reborn.” No police calls will be answered; no emergency services provided.
James Sanlin (Ethan Hawie) is his company’s most stellar salesman of home security systems, and he’s installed top-of-the-line surveillance equipment at his own luxurious McMansion within a gated community where the privileged live. While he and his wife Mary (Lena Headley) are prepared for the coming lockdown, hunkering in behind steel shutters, watching the mayhem on television, his family is thrown into chaos, particularly his teenagers, Charlie (Max Burkholder) and Zoey
(Adelaide Kane), when James accidentally kills Zoey’s older boyfriend, mistaking him for an intruder. Then there’s the very real threat posed by a homeless black man (Edwin Hodge), an injured drifter seeking sanctuary, whom Charlie has allowed into the house. When an angry mob comes looking for the man, they demand his release, threatening to ‘purge’ the entire family.
“Things like this aren’t supposed to happen in our neighborhood,” James wails.
Whether consciously or unconsciously, writer/director James DeMonaco (“Assault on Precinct 13,” “The Negotiator”) utilizes the same scary, dystopian, class-warfare concept as “The Hunger Games” but, unfortunately, the sacrificial potential for psychological suspense and tension, revolving around aggression, simply disintegrates into the idiotic gory carnage of a home-invasion thriller. And the macabre masks that the marauding mobs of Freaks wear seem like an obvious homage to “A Clockwork Orange.”
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Purge” is an improbable, yet blood-splattered 4. Interesting idea: execrable execution.