I GUESS everyone will agree that the premise of James DeMonaco’s The Purge is rather interesting: in 2022 America where 99 percent of the population is employed and the crime rate is at an all time low, there is an annual “purge” that allows people to unleash their inner psychopath.
Once a year, for 12 hours, all crimes including murder become legal and government aids such as health and police services are suspended. This idea is rife with opportunities for socio-political commentary, and the film is well aware of it. But despite being set in a thriving, wealthy society, the film zooms in to violent criminal activities reminiscent of the urban ghetto.
Right off the bat, we see a montage of various street crimes for which the baseball bat is the no. 1 weapon of choice. The news soundbytes also tell us that this annual sociopath party is criticized for being just another way to “eliminate the poor.”
This brings me to the first of two major contentions I have against this dystopian world the film has created: it asserts that murdering poor people is the key to a much better economy. It took “beating poverty” to a literal level, which is funny but only in retrospect.
Sure, this flawed logic is primarily espoused by the movie’s antagonists who are huge wackos, but it also serves as the main motivation behind the film’s conflict. And unfortunately, this stupid assertion leaves the audience (or me, fine) to either ignore the faulty and shallow analysis or to disregard character development altogether and just accept that the villains are driven by insanity and nothing more.
The other major problem I have is about the poor engineering behind the supposedly topnotch security system in the Sandin residence. Look: if a group of crazy hooligans can hack your power system in a snap and destroy your barricade by anchoring chains then pulling away via a big truck—man you totally deserve to die! And you’re even selling this security package to your neighbors? No wonder they decided to purge you themselves.
But instead of feeling betrayed because the Sandins are ripping them off, the Evil Rich Neighbors instead exhibit upper class envy as the reason behind their violent tendencies. The other villains, the Hooligans, are nothing else but caricatures and are again proof that the characters in this movie are not solid enough to strengthen the already wonky narrative.
The sound effects are commendable though; they prove that an effective thriller needs an appropriate amount of a suspenseful dun-dun-dun score and a complete absence of decent lighting. Cersei Lannister was also convincing in playing the victim; never knew it was her until she smashed Evil Blondie’s face on the table.
This review is three years late, I know, but if you’re looking for a decent thriller then The Purge should do. Just don’t expect anything grander because it is sadly not as insightful as it could have been.
The featured image is from IMDB.