'The Purge' should be purged
"The Purge" is a new film from little known writer/director James DeMonaco. The movie is set roughly 10 years in the future -- crime and unemployment are at an all-time low thanks to a program called The Purge.
Once a year, for 12 hours, all crime, including murder, is legal. The concept is this 12-hour window is used to purge all of the hatred and angst people build up all year long.
That idea in and of itself is interesting from psychological, societal and narrative standpoints.
It's one of those setups that begs some discussion either heading to or leaving the theater. What would you do if you could commit any crime with impunity?
The problem starts when the filmmakers answer that question completely differently than almost any audience member would.
"The Purge" would have us believe the majority of Americans would turn into sociopathic murderers. If The Purge were a real program, I would imagine the most common crime would be theft, people just trying to get ahead.
I just could not swallow the idea everyone in the immediate vicinity of the main characters suddenly turns into considerably less-interesting versions of the Joker.
From a broad standpoint, the narrative is broken. A closer inspection reveals hairline cracks through every chunk of the film. The writing is exceptionally poor, the set design and effects are weak at best, and the acting fails to build any human connections to the story.
Much like the titular justice program, "The Purge" ultimately fails at its primary objective -- catharsis.
The Purge is supposed to be about release, about ridding oneself of all the negative feelings we carry around. Quite the contrary, "The Purge" left me feeling far more negative than when I walked into the theater.
2 out of 6 stars
James Gerstner works at the Fort Hays State University Foundation and is the founder and editor of Six Horizons Media at sixhorizons.com.
Contact James at firstname.lastname@example.org, @sixhorizons on Twitter, Facebook.com/sixhorizons.