Director: James DeMonaco

Starring: Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey, Edwin Hodge

Year: 2013

You can’t write a Stephen King story without being Stephen King.  Just ask James DeMonaco, who tried and failed.  It takes a certain genius to write a dystopic short story and lace it with drama & violence without making it ridiculous.  I’m not talking tween post-apocalyptic stuff, I’m talking a real, intense, small, time-capsule story set in a world different from our own, but with emotions that we can totally understand.  Had Stephen King or a talent like him written a novel for this movie to be based on, the outcome might have been different.  We might have had a plot that felt believable and characters that seemed like you & me.  Instead, DeMonaco wrote the screenplay, directed the film, and totally failed to bring The Purge to life.

In the near future, America will develop an interesting process to deal with its rising crime levels.  With anger & violence & poverty becoming ways on life, the new United States government created the Purge to deal with the nation’s problems.  One night a year any crime goes, nothing is illegal, including murder.  One night to get out your frustration, to kill the scum of the country, to let out that aggression you’ve been holding in for months.  And for the Sandin family, this new “holiday” is a profitable one, as James is a salesman in security systems, a must for wealthy families during the Purge.  You lock down the house, all doors & windows cover up, you ride out the violence, and you go on with your lives in the morning.  But one mistake can open your entire world up to the danger outside and force you to decide whether purging your violent impulses is a fad or absolutely necessary.

It’s a great concept and would make for a great short story, done well anyway.  The idea that mankind is inherently violent, that we need some sort of release, and that if we get it on one particular day then all other days are proportionally more peaceful.  Also, topics of poor vs rich, white vs black, violent vs non-violent; it’s an intriguing movie with a lot of interesting conversation starters.  But it’s not a very good film.  First off, it wasn’t well written, past the bare-bones plot.  The lines were force-fed, the reactions were robotic, and it seemed like characters were constantly doing exactly the opposite of what a sane person would do in that exact same situation.  Ethan Hawke was fine, he usually is, but Lena Headey was awful, and both of their kids were terrible actors; the teenage girl incredibly over-the-top and the boy stone cold boring.  I wish someone else had written the story, I wish the movie hadn’t turned into solely a blood bath, and I kinda wish I hadn’t watched this.

My rating: ☆ ☆