It’s 2022 and the USA is doing great. They attribute this to the Purge: one night every year where crimes are legal. The Sandins are supporters of the Purge, James Sandin (Ethan Hawke) makes his money (and a lot of it) by selling security systems and together with his wife Mary (Lena Headey) he pretty much has the perfect suburban family. But this Purge Night things start to go very wrong and the Sandins find themselves besieged in their own house.
I didn’t expect The Purge to be great but it was so incredibly uneven that it wasn’t really fun anymore.
I really liked the idea of The Purge. And I was surprised by how well DeMonaco handles the ideological change that would have to come with such a legal change. Because contrary to popular opinion, people don’t just not to illegal things because they’re illegal but because there are internalized norms and beliefs etc. Simply changing the law wouldn’t just cause people to go as batshit as it is shown here, there needs to be a belief that fits with the rest of their normative system that it is actually not only ok to go batshit but it is practically required from a worthy citizen. And this part was done beautifully.
Unfortunately, DeMonaco builds this up and then fails to do anything with it. You hear reporters talk about how the poor are unable to protect themselves and maybe it’s just a ploy to eradicate them all. You hear talk about the economic impact. You hear about crime rates going down. But it’s like DeMonaco starts telling a joke and stops just short of the punchline, leaving you with a “so?” on your lips and none the wiser.
And apart from the world-building side, the movie was just weak. The
characters cardboard-cutouts kept making weird and unexplained choices (especially Zoe [Adelaide Kane] suffered from this), the women had to be rescued all the time (by men, of course), the villains were so cartoonish that you couldn’t take them seriously at all. But worst of all, they were unable to create any kind of mood. The only time the movie provoked some response in me were the jumpscares and not even all of those worked.
The light in all this darkness is Lena Headey. Ethan Hawke apparently gave up about 30 seconds after they started shooting, but Lena Heady gets everything from Mary that you could get from a character that is about as fleshed out as your average supermodel. What a waste.
Summarising: Nah. If you take the premise and think about it for more than 30 seconds, you’ll probably get more interesting things than the movie did.