The Purge (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner31/05/2013

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 86 mins

Engaging, nail-bitingly tense thriller with an intriguing premise, a strong script and terrific performances from a superb cast, though the filmmakers are sadly uninterested in exploring the wider sociological implications of their central idea.

What's it all about?
Written and directed by James DeMonaco, The Purge is set in 2022 America, where violent crime and unemployment have been all but eradicated thanks to the introduction of an annual Purge Night, where all crime is legal for 12 hours and citizens are encouraged to commit acts of anarchy, destruction and murder, in the name of living in peace for the other 364 days of the year. Ethan Hawke stars as home security salesman James Sandin, who barricades himself and his family – wife Mary (Lena Headey), teenage daughter Zoey (Adelaide Kane) and younger son Charlie (Max Burkholder) – in their luxury suburban home and prepares to watch the evening unfold on TV.

However, when Charlie takes pity on a homeless man (Edwin Hodge) and lets him into the house, the family find themselves targeted by a heavily-armed mob of Purge-happy citizens led by a sinister, grinning and well-spoken stranger (Rhys Wakefield), who demands that they release the man so that they can kill him.

The Good
Ethan Hawke is excellent as Sandin, a man whose borderline smug complacency is quickly shattered as he's forced to deal with a multitude of problems, both inside and outside (perhaps the closest the film comes to effective social commentary is Sandin's trying-not-to-be-racist reaction when confronted with the homeless man). Headey is equally good as Mary, who finds a strength of conviction she didn't know she had, while Rhys Wakefield is utterly chilling as the well-spoken stranger (his weird grinning is extremely disturbing) and both Kane and Burkholder deliver solid performances as the two kids.

DeMonaco's assured direction creates an effectively creepy atmosphere from the start, ratcheting up the tension to nail-biting levels and orchestrating some genuinely scary attack sequences, as well as some moments of suspense that will have you holding your breath in sympathy. The film also has a lot of fun in simultaneously subverting and playing up to audience expectations, allowing for some deliciously nasty moments in the final act.

The Bad
The film's biggest problem is that the script is completely uninterested in exploring the wider sociological implications for The Purge (no-one mentions rape, for example), so your enjoyment of the film largely demands that you take the premise at face value. On top of that, the final act has a number of problems relating to the physical space of the house; either it's a huge mansion-sized affair that wasn't properly established early on or the house has so many people creeping around in it and apparently not being heard by anyone that it beggars belief.

Worth seeing?
Provided you don't question the premise too closely, The Purge is a hugely enjoyable, terrifically tense thriller with strong performances from a superb cast. Recommended.

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The Purge (15)
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Content updated: 15/12/2017 21:33

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