Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #209
Number of Views: One
Release Date: May 2, 2013 (Stanley Film Festival), June 7, 2013 (United States)
Sub-Genre: Home Invasion
Country of Origin: United States
Box Office: $89,328,627
Running Time: 85 minutes
Director: James DeMonaco
Producers: Michael Bay, Jason Blum, Andrew Form, Bradley Fuller, Sébastien Kurt Lemercier
Screenplay: James DeMonaco
Special Effects: Lawrence Decker, Mark Gullesserian
Visual Effects: Sean Andrew Faden
Cinematography: Jacques Jouffret
Score: Nathan Whitehead
Editing: Peter Gvozdas
Studio: Platinum Dunes, Blumhouse Productions, Media Rights Capital, Why Not Productions
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Stars: Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey, Adelaide Kane, Max Burkholder, Edwin Hodge, Tony Oller, Arija Bareikis, Dana Bunch, Chris Mulkey, Tisha French, Tom Yi, Rhys Wakefield, John Weselcouch, Alicia Vela-Bailey, Aaron Kuban, Boima Blake, Nathan Clarkson, Chester Lockhart, Tyler Jaye, RJ Wolfe, David Basila, Peter Gvozdas, Karen Strassman
Suggested Audio Candy
Nathan Whitehead “Nothing Is Ever Going To Be Ok Again”
“Blessed be the new founding fathers for letting us purge and cleanse our souls. Blessed be America, a nation reborn.”
I’ve always been more of a bottler than a venter. Traditionally, if I have a beef with somebody, then I simply let it ride for a peaceful existence. I’ve never cared much for conflict and would prefer pacification over flexing my muscles and showing that I have a larger set of balls than the next man. Of course, as gallant as this may appear, it also means I tend to pent-up any frustration and historically it all comes out in a fit of rage on what I have deduced is a seven-year cycle. That’s right, once every seven years or so I see red and believe me when I say that my temper when lost is not pretty.
So the premise for James DeMonaco’s home invasion movie The Purge had me very much intrigued. It is the near future and crime has been green-lit on one day every year. Annually folk are sanctioned by the government to do pretty much whatever the hell they please. Everything is fair game for a twelve-hour period, including cold-blooded murder and with absolutely no repercussions for your actions. Actually the plan is totally fucked but for the purpose of 85 minutes of entertainment it makes perfect sense. I’m sure if we’re honest that we have all questioned who we would snuff out if was deemed acceptable. Come on now, don’t make me out to be the lone stranger on this one.
James Sandin (Ethan Hawke) and his family Mary (Lena Headey), Zoey (Adelaide Kane) and Charlie (Max Burkholder) are a regular white-collared American family living in an affluent neighborhood in the suburbs. James sells home security systems and every house on his block has one installed. He returns to his palatial home from a hard day’s grind and settles into the fortified abode for the duration of the annual free-for-all, where he proceeds to watch the televised Purge broadcast in the comfort of his own living room. Just another regular March 21st.
From the outside looking in the Sandins seem like a fairly normal, functional family unit but looks can be very deceiving. Beneath the surface, tempers are bubbling away. James does not approve of his daughter’s ongoing relationship with her older boyfriend Henry and Charlie is getting to the age where he is beginning to question the morality of the yearly event. Meanwhile his wife sits on the fence but is starting to find it harder to justify the need for ‘social cleansing’. So all is not as well as it initially appears but things are about to get a darned sight worse for the Sandins.
Their safety becomes compromised when Charlie spots a wounded black man (Edwin Hodge) roaming the street pleading for sanctuary from an unseen angry mob advancing on his position. The boy unwittingly disarms their hi-tech security system and allows the man to take refuge inside but this proves to be far from a wise move as the Sandins incite the wrath of a particularly resourceful band of Purgers who camp in their garden until which time as they are personally delivered their runaway quarry.
At its heart The Purge is a standard home invasion movie and no different from the glut of other suchlike works currently doing the rounds. However, it affords itself the opportunity to stand out of the crowd through tackling subject matters such as class welfare and offering a bleak outlook for the not-so-distant future. It received some flack for not elaborating enough on this theme although, in Keeper’s opinion, it needs not do so. Who gives a shit if its vision of homeland security is nihilistic? Is it not meant to entertain? It’s all about suspending disbelief a little and taking it for what it is rather than getting caught up in subtext.
Unfortunately, The Purge falls down in other key areas. Some of the family members’ actions are questionable to say the least and this can be pardoned given that it is, after all, only a movie. What grates more is its tendency to opt for the easy way out on a number of occasions when all appears lost. If I had a dime for every time a looming madman is shot by an unseen defender then I would have a helluva lot of dimes in my pocket. DeMonaco’s film does it with a tad too much frequency, alleviating the tension as it takes a more predictable path than is warranted.
Hawke is, as he always is without doubt, excellent as the head of the family and his story arc is the most pronounced. From being an avid supporter of The Purge and making a tidy living from its existence, he begins to doubt his mind increasingly throughout and ponders whether he is any different to those outside running riot. Headey is also on the money and struggles to see carnage thinly veiled as one’s right to free will as being too ironic to consider acceptable practice. The real star of the piece here though is Rhys Wakefield who plays chipper Purger ‘Polite Man’. Dressed in preppy attire and sporting a smug grin, he revels a little too much in the annual hootenanny to be deemed healthy and portrays his character with menacing perfection.
The final act is taut and exhilarating, aided by Nathan Whitehead’s exemplary synchronized score which is reminiscent of early Carpenter and adds to the experience infinitely. Overall, I couldn’t shake that slight feeling of disappointment. Make no mistake, as a home invasion movie it works fairly well. When placed alongside Adam Wingard’s superior and more mean-spirited You’re Next however, it comes up a rather poor second.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 7/10
Grue Factor: 2/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers: There is plenty of bloodletting but it is fleetingly observed rather than lingering. There is a particularly violent showdown between James and a number of masked assailants which culminates in a home being found for a ten-inch serrated blade but it never revels in the red sauce.
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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