Let me be blunt. There is no reason to see this movie. It’s a psychological horror film that is mean and ugly, without a whit of wit, and exists only as a failed and feeble attempt at social commentary. It’s as much a waste of your brain cells as it is of your money and time.
The premise: Just a few years into the future, all appears to be pretty good in America, with the unemployment rate at about 1 percent, and people generally happy. Yet a few years earlier, things were so bad, and folks were so miserable, the entire government had to be replaced. As soon as the “New Founding Fathers” (sexist, don’t you think?) took over, they implemented the government-sanctioned annual Purge, during which “all crime is legal for 12 continuous hours” across the country.
It’s a different kind of getting yer ya-yas out, a way to let everyone let off some steam, a lower to drastically lower the crime rate the rest of the year. Yes, murder is included.
Say hello to our hero, James (Ethan Hawke), his wife Mary (Lena Headey), and their two teens – the confused son and the annoyed daughter. These folks were just scraping by until James got involved with big-budget security systems, the kind that would keep raucous, bloodthirsty purgers locked out on this special night, and keep wealthy people behind reinforced walls in homes that give a new meaning to the term safe house.
So as the 7 p.m. starting time approaches, the now well-off James and Mary wish a cheery “safe night” to their neighbors, push their wall-lowering buttons, peruse the suddenly empty streets from a bank of video screens, and settle in.
Uh-oh ... who’s that terrified guy running through the streets screaming for help? Here, let me turn off the security system for just a moment while he comes inside, says that confused son to himself, then does just that. Hold on, who’s that knocking on the door? Why, it’s a bunch of wealthy young hoodlums, with masks and guns and machetes, looking for that guy, for that – what do they call him? – ah, yes, that filthy swine who they intend to slaughter because he’s homeless.
For the convenience of the film’s script, they just happen to know he’s in there. And wait, here comes the ultimatum: Give him to us, or we’ll get in, get him, and get you, too, they tell James via a video camera.
Wouldn’t ya know it? The impenetrable system on his beautiful home, the same one he sold to his neighbors, isn’t quite impenetrable. Certainly not after some “equipment” arrives. What’s a nervous peace-loving family that doesn’t take part in the purge but has a well-stocked gun cabinet to do?
Here’s a clue. Things get vicious and bloody. There are long silences that are capped off by sudden jolts. Borrowing heavily from films including “The Hunger Games” and “The Strangers,” this turns into a tale of an America that’s run by horrible leaders and populated by idiots. The acting is forced, the characters are unlikeable, the scenes are repetitive, and the whole thing is pointless.
Ed Symkus covers movies for More Content Now.
Written and directed by James DeMonaco
With Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey