Humans are pretty big pieces of shit, aren’t they? Just in general, we walk around like a bunch of sophisticated beings, but we’re just a bunch of animals that got lucky enough to be born at a time where we are walking and talking and have the internet. If you don’t believe me, just go to any bar and watch every guy there who forgets they’re a human and watch them try to fuck and fight everything they can. It’s fucking gross. I started hearing about The Purge a couple months ago and heard it being compared to You’re Next for some reason. It turns out that really the only thing they have in common is that both movies have people wearing masks trying to break into a house to murder people, but other than that, there’s really nothing the two films have in common. The biggest thing they don’t have in common is that You’re Next was quite good, and The Purge never really capitalized on the interesting conceptual premise that causes all of the events of the film. Even though The Purge made the audience question what things make us human and whether or not we can remove violence from our society, it ends up making you cheer for all the carnage that takes place in a relatively predictable way.
You’re a giant, Ethan Hawke! You should be able to handle these people very easily!
In the not too distant future, there is a law passed that make all crime legal for 12 hours. No police, no paramedics, no threat of punishment for your actions. The concept is that humans are inherently violent, so by “purging” that violence and aggression into 12 concentrated hours, society will function safely the other 364 1/2 days of the year. The only problem with that is that if you can’t afford weapons or a safe home to live in, you could possibly be killed, leading to a very low unemployment rate due to the amount of homeless people killed. If you make your living off selling home security systems, like James Sandin (Ethan Hawke), then you don’t really have much to worry about. When his son questions why he never participates in The Purge, he and his wife Mary (Lena Headey) reply that they have no anger or aggression to release, but if they did then they might participate. Once The Purge commences, things seem to be going well until the son sees a homeless man wandering the streets and asking for help. The security systems are lowered and the homeless man comes inside, but shortly after, a group of rich, well-educated members of society, wearing masks and led by Rhys Wakefield‘s character, demanding the opportunity to rightfully kill the homeless man. The Sandis’s are then forced to figure out if they’re the type of people who willingly sacrifice someone to save themselves. What follows ends up being a relatively predictable “thriller” with a lot of violence glorification that basically ends exactly the way you think it would.
It was mildly frustrating to watch Lena Headey take the more vulnerable role, especially after seeing how strong she is in Dredd and Game of Thrones. Then again, I’m never really going to complain about watching Lena Headey in anything.
Pretty interesting first act, wasn’t it? Too bad everything went to shit there. Supposedly there were a lot of political themes and background information that ended up being cut out of the final film, which is pretty disappointing because the concept of a world where this stuff happened was the most intriguing thing. I’m not saying that if I took that concept and tried to make my own movie about it that it’d end up any better, but there were some pretty heavy themes that were addressed and ultimately abandoned. The family’s initial reactions towards the homeless man are to sacrifice him, but to do that, they have to use violence to retrain him and overpower him, tapping into their more primal side. When James realizes that’s he’s tapping into his more violent nature, he changes his mind and decides he will take his chances with the intruders so he doesn’t become just like them. Good job, James! You prevented the death of one human to prove you weren’t an animal! What happens next? Oh, well, James then goes on a murder spree where he violently kills at least half a dozen people with guns and axes. Good thing you resisted your violent, primal instincts to…completely embrace your violent, primal instincts? WHAT THE FUCK? Both times I saw this movie was in a packed house, and both times the entire audience was cheering with delight when the blood was spraying all over the screen. This could have been the point that writer/director James DeMonaco was trying to make, but the way the film was constructed and shot was a little too persuasive when it made that violence look “cool”. Those sequences of murder could have easily been shown in a less fantastical way that wouldn’t have tricked you into enjoying the mayhem. There are definitely interesting concepts, ones that I’m personally very interested in, but those concepts seemed to be dropped 45 minutes into the movie and never really explored with maturity.
Even though I didn’t really think these masks were creepy, I do think it was cool that it looked like they were an exaggerated very of Rhys Wakefield’s face. That’s not me trying to make a joke, it really looked like that.
Once you realize that the interesting concept of the whole movie has been dropped after 45 minutes, it’s your typical thriller that’s constantly full of “surprises” and killers that come across as silly instead of violent maniacs. I’d say that Wakefield’s performance as a seemingly sophisticated, rich young man was the best in the film, but even that was somewhat cartoonish. The forced, over-the-top creepiness of the masked intruders was so, so dumb and I couldn’t help but laugh. Masks don’t automatically make intimidating people, especially when there have been so many more effectively creepy masked villains in home invasion movies. The masks the killers were wearing looked like they were taken from the cover of a Goosebumps book, so all the shots of these characters swinging on swing sets or dancing around on the lawn was just irritating as opposed to intimidating. WE GET IT, THESE GUYS ARE CRAAAAZZZZZYYYY!!!! Look at their masks and the way they take murder so lightly! Another device this movie overused was sequences where a character would draw out a murder, only to be surprisingly murdered by someone else. I counted at least four instances of one character taking out a gun or a knife, toying with the person they were about to kill, and right when you think they’re going to kill the person, BOOM! A good guy rescues them. Doing that more than ONCE in a movie can make it feel repetitive, but the amounts of times we were cheated out of seeing an impactful death was super fucking annoying. I feel like to really enjoy the movie, you have to view it as a popcorn movie that shouldn’t be thought about too much or taken for more than just surface level enjoyment, you’re going to get super fucking annoyed like I did about how this movie almost was able to say something about our society and just made you say “AWESOME YOU TOTALLY KILLED THAT LADY!”
Wolfman Moon Scale
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A premise like this may be stupid, but at least it shows promise. Promise, which this movie squanders completely. Nice review.
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