Wednesday, 4 September 2013

They Made Me Do It...Again! July 12-July 13 #1: The Purge (2013)

The Purge is a 2013 dystopian home invasion film. Directed and written by James DeMonaco (writer of Skinwalkers and Assault on Precinct 13 remake) starring Ethan Hawke (Sinister, Training Day), Lena Heady (Dredd, 300) and Rhys Wakefield (Home & Away).

The premise of the The Purge is as simple as it is genius. In the year 2022 America has been so ravaged by crime & poverty that the right wing political party known as "the founding fathers" have introduced the annual purge, a 12 hour period with no laws and no consequences during which citizens can maim and murder to their heart's content. However, ostentatious security salesman James Sandin (Hawke), wife Mary (Headey) and their two children only want to hunker down for the night in their enormous house and let the "purgers" get on with it. This goes slightly awry when their son has a crisis of conscience and decides to give shelter to a fleeing homeless man drawing the ire of a group of ultra-violent rich kids and their "polite leader" who only wish to exercise their right to purge and give the Sandins an ultimatum....send the fugitive out, or we're coming in!

The most fascinating aspect of The Purge is the social satire and back story behind the main concept, it instantly demands that the audience put their selves in the shoes of the protagonists, would such a system really be for the greater good? Would you protect the life of a stranger wagered against the lives of your family? The film raises several interesting questions of ethics and morality and even though the Sandins begin the movie as affluent pacifists they too become forced to play the game and by the end of the film you really wonder whether the protagonists were really protagonists at all.

By stark contrast the antagonists of the film are clearly so, representing the rich oligarchy desperate to eradicate the poor and hungry who place such a burden on the nation they clearly see it as their right to purge and enact their twisted agenda. The best performance of the film has to go to Rhys Wakefield as the polite leader, with well spoken, charming delivery of the terrifying threats he channels the same kind of "polite terrorism" employed so effectively in Funny Games (1997). Although I must say the rubber masks worn by the purgers are cliched in the extreme, once the polite leader takes his off he's able to convey a genuinely psychotic character that I found incredibly effective.

I was very pleasantly surprised by The Purge as I had mixed expectations based on Ethan Hawke's other recent horror film (don't worry we'll get to that one) and I had assumed that once you knew the premise you didn't necessarily need to see the film. I was wrong, it becomes ever more compelling as you see how the characters are affected by the purge and how the night plays out and although I could see the final twist coming from a mile off it left me no less satisfied with the film.

**** 4 Stars

What did you think of The Purge? What would you do in an actual purge?


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