Review: THE PURGE (2013) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Review: THE PURGE (2013)

Review: THE PURGE (2013)
Blessed with a mix of high-concept premise, home-invasion thriller and subversive political allegory, THE PURGE is surprisingly intense and thought-provoking micro-budgeted genre movie.

When I first learned about THE PURGE, I was quite impressed how this micro-budgeted movie (made at a measly US$3 million) ended up being one of the most surprise box-office hits in the U.S. (which is currently raked at an astounding US$56 million). Yes, the movie was heavily trashed by critics around the Internet but I was somehow caught by surprise because THE PURGE turns out to be a knockout thriller after all.


Set in 2022 America where the crime rate is almost non-existent and unemployment is at a tiny 1%, THE PURGE centres on a successful security-system salesman James Sandin (Ethan Hawke), whose business has escalated thanks to the annual event known as "The Annual Purge". Sanctioned by the country's "new founding fathers", all crime will be legalized during the 12-hour period over the course of a single night (March 21-22, from 7.00 pm to 7.00am) and all emergency services will be suspended to give way for anyone the golden chance to release their angers or their frustrations against anybody they want. During that particular night, James settles in with his family -- wife Mary (Lena Headey), teenage daughter Zoey (Adelaide Kane), and young son Charlie (Max Burkholder) -- in their fortified house. However, things start to fall apart when Charlie sees a wounded and frightened man (Edwin Hodge) wandering the street, begging for help. Charlie ends up feeling pity for him and disengages the security system to let the man into their house. It turns to be a huge mistake when a group of masked vigilantes (lead by Rhys Wakefield) showing up at the front door, with weapons in hand and threatened to kill the entire family if they fail to give up the man inside their house.

James DeMonaco's direction is taut and at times claustrophobic. The premise itself, which is written by DeMonaco himself, is intriguing and worthy of a debate that concerns on the act of violence. As for the cast, Ethan Hawke is simply convincing as an everyman forced to commit violence because he wants to protect his family. Lena Headey, who often typecast as a seductive or tough role, is perfectly restrained for a change. The rest of the supporting actors are equally effective, but it was Rhys Wakefield who impresses the most in his chilly performance as the sinister head villain.

The STRAW DOGS-like moment during the third act when James and Mary decide to fight against the group of masked vigilantes -- especially the one involves James engages in a violent close-quarter fighting scene at the billiard room. And of course, the twist ending at which I find it quite unexpected.

I must say admit that the middle part sags a little. There are a number of scenes which shown inside the house is quite hard to watch because it was literally shot in the dark and the only light available is the beaming flashlight. 

Even though the movie could have been more ambitious if DeMonaco chooses to expand his own high-concept premise rather than confined it to a typical home-invasion thriller, THE PURGE remains a recommended effort to check out for.

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