IMAGINE a world without laws; what would you do?
That is the premise of James DeMonaco’s The Purge.
For 12 hours once every year, American emergency responders are off and crime is legal.
Now, this is not because America has slipped into some dystopian hell-hole, in fact, it’s quite the opposite.
Crime is at an all-time low and employment is at an all-time high. It’s just that people need to get rid of some of that hatred and frustration, you know?
Plus, it acts as a purge for more violent members of society, which is a bonus for the unseen government of America in 2022.
The film wastes no time in explaining the concept to viewers and casting the roles of the protaganists.
You have Ethan Hawke as domineering dad, Lena Headey as social climber mom, Adelaide Kane as rebellious teen daughter and Max Burkholder as idealistic, scared son.
Names are irrelevant as the characters are fairly unoriginal and blandly written.
The early action as the family discuss their plans for the evening, which appear to not be any different than any night where people aren’t being killed in the street, is fairly dry as battle lines are drawn in the family.
The film punches through the gears pretty quickly, though and soon a bloodied stranger is screaming for help on the family’s front lawn.
When he is granted access to the house by the previously mentioned idealist, the family must confront their own paranoia and prejudices.
That is before a group of preppy sociopaths show up, intent on reclaiming their prey.
Now, the film becomes a fort movie, with invaders repelled by any means necessary and an awful lot of close-quarters combat.
The inclusion of Ethan Hawke and writer-director James DeMonaco as the hero makes comparisons with Assault on Precinct 13 inevitable. But DeMonaco’s decision to make the antagonists a group of white college kids keeps this from tipping into a typical lecture on the futility of violence.
In fact, the director manages to sidestep entirely the notion that a violent film can’t moralise on the use of violence.
Here, he manages to play both sides of the face as massive arsenals of guns, knives and improvised weaponry are used to fend off the horde of masked men and women.
The twists and turns come sharp and some are refreshingly original and, by the time morning breaks, the audience is exhausted and slightly exhilarated.
It’s not the most believable film, nor is it a groundbreaker in terms of story or action.
But it does zip along nicely and marks DeMonaco as an intriguing talent to watch.