The Purge (2013)

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When hearing that The Purge had a production cost of $ 3 million (Hollywood chump change) and had such notable names behind the film (i.e. James DeMonaco working with Blumhouse Productions- a force in modern horror), I had to see this futuristic suspense thriller. When a film’s cost value is this low, it tends to mean one major thing (hopefully): The movie will lack in special effects, extravagant locations, and possibly cast -but will make up in other areas with reprisal.

The film is currently exceeding box office expectations by a long shot. Top critics have given the film a C rating, yet it is interesting to point out that the movie has already made $ 18.2 million in the box offices and the final Saturday numbers aren’t even officially in yet. People are seeing the movie in zombie like hordes to no end in sight. Positive word of mouth from the public seems to be the driving force that is slaying the majority of negative reviews by critics.

With the above in mind, I saw the film this Saturday at the new Galaxy Cinema theater that just had a grand opening in Sarnia, Ontario. So this review is as fresh as the smell of the new carpet, food menus and padded rock-back chairs that the new cinema has to offer.

Overview:

Director: James DeMonaco Stars: Ethan Hawk, Lena Headley, Max Burkholder
Genre: Thriller, Horror & Suspense

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The film follows one family over the course of a single night; four people will be tested to see how far they will go to protect themselves when the vicious outside world breaks into their home. The film takes place in America in the year 2022. It is an America that has gone through a quadruple recession (basically a depression), a devalued dollar and an epic crash in the stock market. This has all led to an America that was suffocated by crime and overloaded prisons (essentially America today); the federal government soon after the societal collapse had authorized an annual 12-hour period in which any and all criminal activity—including murder—becomes permissible. The police can’t be called. Hospitals suspend assistance. Its one night when the public regulates itself without thought of punishment. It’s an annual “purge” and cleansing of the primal soul and of societies “non-producers”.

The Purge is, in essence, just your average day in Juarez, Mexico. In the movie, the rich hunker down in their domestic fortresses(with the most adavnced security systems) while the poor and homeless are purged by roaming gangs or lone wolves(“purge parties”) that are typically that of the more affluent in society.

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Yes, the film does draw off the concept of The Hunger Games where everyone(mostly) in society supports some sort of gladiatorial event/evening to which is supposed to be “good” or help the cause of society. The message that you will redoubtably take away from this film (once you read between the lines and get past the very entertaining action) is that: Conformity is dangerous, and that the very system you support will eventually come back to haunt you, maybe even kill you, no matter how high up in the pyramid you think you are. Just like with events such as hurricane Katrina, the community had the reset button pressed on them, everyone was on an equal playing field when the shit went down. The natural order does not care whether you are a lawyer, doctor, policeman, janitor, banker or any type of title. It’s whether or not you know how to survive that really counts in the end.

This film from an acting standpoint was average. Ethan Hawk gave a decent performance as the providing affluent husband, and Game of Thrones actress Lena Hedley played the supportive housewife with vigor. Character development did not play a huge role in the film, although you will see how each character’s perception of their world changes. For the amount of killing and twists (there are some big ones) I don’t think character development was really neither needed nor essential for this type of plot line. There was enough for what the film needed to be sustainable.

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In all honesty, Ethan Hawk and Lena Hedley were good; however, the show was really stolen by the main villain/leader of the home invaders, Rhys Wakefield. Frankly, his character, and the way he played it, was one of the most creepy and psychotically charming performances I have seen in recent film. I won’t ruin what I mean by giving you details. You simply have to go see it for yourself and you will understand. Furthermore, another reason why you should see this film in theaters is for the added value of a viewing audience.

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One of my better cinematic experiences, The Purge should almost be in the category of dark comedy. I can’t guarantee what type of crowd you will get bunched within your cinema, but my fellow movie-goers made this film 100x better because it offered moments where people could make a few non-sequiturs and one-liners. That’s how I like my theater experiences to be like: people involving themselves in the film; because that’s when you know the producers, writer(s) and director did their jobs well.

From a technical standpoint, the camera work was nothing too flashy and was pretty standard for this type of genre: a lot of micro focused angles, close ups and cut-action scenes to keep that claustrophobic and intense feel to the film. Mr. DeMonaco’s technical style from Assault on Precinct 13 are all there as well. The tension line in the film never went slack (if rarely). The makers keep you in suspense and anticipation throughout the whole ordeal.

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Aside from a few holes in the plot line( mostly referring the logistics of the purge and how it would actually help the unemployment rate and societal/economic growth), the film is commendable for those who like the short, sweet, and cathartic violent gratification of a solid thriller. The film also appeals to those who like a movie that leaves the viewer with something to think about. Those looking for a horror movie might not get the quality scares they are entitled too (or at least)- but the tension they will enjoy in earnest, along with a few good laughs at those “I am going into the dark basement alone” type moments in the script. Those looking to this film to see scenes of chaos in the streets, riots, and mass bloodshed will be severely disappointed and left in a state of general confusion. The film is basically an adult version of Home Alone.

All in all, a solid B rating for this film thanks to the work from Mr. DeMonaco and his team. I would recommend seeing this film in theaters, not just because it’s a solid thriller, but for the value of a good audience to share the experience with (I am sure you will be grouped with a few comedians from your city who will blurt out some comedy gold to the likes of which I heard).

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