Today I had the pleasure of watching American science-fiction thriller The Purge.
In the year 2022, the United States has become “a nation reborn” thanks to the New Founding Fathers of America. Crime and unemployment rates are hitting an all-time low due to the government having instituted an annual 12-hour period called “the Purge” during which all criminal activity (including murder, theft, and rape) becomes legal. The only rules during the Purge is that government officials of “ranking 10 or higher” must remain unharmed and usage of weaponry above “Class 4” (such as WMDs) is forbidden. Also, the police and emergency services are suspended during this time and anyone who doesn’t follow the rules of the Purge will be executed. The Purge is designed to act as a catharsis for the American people, so that they may vent all negative emotions and repressed urges however and on whomever they desire, although it is implied throughout the film that the Purge is really just a method of population control, allowing the weeding-out of the impoverished and other people who are seen as a burden on the economy and society in general.
James Sandin (Ethan Hawke) is a wealthy home security salesman who lives in an affluent neighborhood in the suburbs of Los Angeles, California. James has made a fortune selling home security systems—comprising security cameras and metallic “butts” blocking any possible entrance—that are specifically designed for the Purge. One of the neighbors, Mrs. Grace Ferrin (Arija Bareikis), tells James’ wife Mary (Lena Headey) the neighbors have been gossiping that the extension on the Sandin family’s house was financed by the security systems which her husband had sold them in the first place.
At their heavily fortified house, Mary struggles with their two children, Zoey (Adelaide Kane) and Charlie (Max Burkholder). Zoey is dating an older boy named Henry (Tony Oller), of whom her father does not approve and Charlie constantly questions the need for the Purge. Charlie has a little robotic video doll on an RC car with a pair of glasses connected to the camera, allowing Charlie to see everything in front of the RC Car. Zoey goes to her bedroom, where she finds Henry, who sneaked into the house before the lockdown to convince James to bless their relationship and figured he could not be thrown out of the house during the Purge. At 7:00 P.M., an Emergency Broadcast System message appears on television, telling the United States the rules of the Purge and that all police, fire, and hospital aid will be shut down for the 12-hour period. Sirens start blaring outside, commencing the start of the annual Purge.
The Sandin family watch the events of the Purge unfold via the video monitors in the lounge. After a while, Charlie is left alone and notices a bloody stranger (Edwin Hodge) outside the house pleading for help. Charlie deactivates the security system and lets him in. James intercepts the stranger and holds him at gunpoint. Henry appears with a handgun and opens fire on James, this apparently having been his plan all along in order to carry on his relationship with Zoey. James fatally shoots Henry, and in the confusion the stranger escapes to hide within the house. Zoey runs off with the fatally-wounded Henry and watches him die. James then goes off in search of his daughter and the stranger.
A group of masked criminals, led by a sadistic man in a suit known as Polite Leader (Rhys Wakefield) approach the house looking for the stranger. They threaten to kill everyone inside unless the family surrenders the stranger, whose homelessness they claim makes him a good candidate for purging. James admits to his wife that the security system was designed to act as a deterrent, but not to withstand any number of aggressive assaults. Charlie finds the stranger and leads him to a secret hiding place. However, Zoey is held captive by the stranger after she inadvertently stumbles into his hiding place. James arrives and subdues the stranger, planning to turn him over to his pursuers outside. However, the Sandins have a change of heart after realizing they are becoming essentially no different from the purgers outside. The Polite Leader, seemingly unsatisfied, announces that their time is up. Using chains and a truck the Purgers tear down the metal walls and enter the house, and the Sandins are forced to defend themselves.
James sees two of the murderers in the game room. He kills the first attacker by shooting her in the chest with a pump action shotgun and kills the second by throwing the killer’s face down into a pinball machine, then dragging his head against the pieces of broken glass, stabbing his head. Another purger tries to kill James but James grabs a fireaxe and throws the blade down into the murderer’s back, killing him. He leaves the room but is stabbed by the Polite Leader. As Mary is about to be killed, her neighbors led by Grace and her husband (Dana Bunch) come to the family’s aid. Mr. and Mrs. Halverson (Chris Mulkey and Tisha French) shoot Mary’s attackers and she goes in search of her family. After locating Mary, Charlie and a dying James, the Polite Leader attempts to kill them, but Zoey emerges at the door and shoots him dead. The neighbors then enter the room, having killed the remainder of the Purgers. Although Mary thanks the neighbors, they reveal that they have come to kill the Sandins as the opportunity for this patriotic duty happens to coincide with their hatred for the family’s wealth.
Just as the neighbors are about to kill the family, the stranger comes to the Sandins’ aid. He kills Mr. Cali (Tom Yi) with his handgun and holds the remaining neighbors at gunpoint. Deciding that too many people have already been killed and to ensure the neighbors live with their guilt, Mary spares their lives. They sit at the kitchen table and patiently await the end of the purge. In one last desperate act, Grace tries to grab Mary’s gun, but Mary beats her face with the butt of her gun and slams her face onto the table. The surviving neighbors and the stranger leave the house and walk away as sirens outside start blaring again, signaling the end of the Purge. The family watches emergency services vehicles arrive outside their home to carry away the murdered Purger bodies and the Polite Leader as well as James’ body (where he had succumbed to his wound).
During the ending credits, there is audio from radio broadcasts stating that this Purge was the most successful yet, due to the record high number of murders, with stock markets opening high with increased sales of home defense systems and weapons, and that the Purge will occur as normal the following year.
It was a very entertaining film, based on an interesting concept. The plot was well thought out, and the acting was very strong. Lena Headey was her usual awesome self, and special recognition should also go to Max Burkholder, who performed admirably. My favourite performance in the film came from Rhys Wakefield as the Polite Leader. He was so delightfully sinister that it really gave the film that extra bit of darkness that made it special. I highly recommend it for anyone to see.
Thanks for reading.