Honestly, this is not a high-quality movie. The script has gaping plot holes, and you need to suspend your disbelief right from the beginning.
But it does encourage people to talk about violence in our society. So while I can’t say “The Purge” is “entertainment,” I can say it’s thought-provoking. There’s a reason it played to sold-out shows during its early debut this past Thursday night.
It’s kind of a science-fiction movie in the sense that it’s set in the not-too-distant future of 2022. The United States is administered by a group of people known as “the new founding fathers,” who are credited with bringing the unemployment and crime rates down to almost nil.
How was this accomplished? With The Purge, an annual 12-hour observance held every March 22 in which criminal law becomes void. That’s right: You can kill, you can rob, you can maim and you won’t be arrested for it. Supporters of the tradition say it helps people release their inner demons.
Detractors say the event means that only the poor and the homeless will be slaughtered while the well-to-do safely ride out The Purge in their beautiful homes.
Among the elite are James and Mary Sandin, played by Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey (“Dredd”). James sells the security system that the Sandins and nearly everyone else in their neighborhood have installed in their homes. James, naturally, is an advocate of The Purge because it’s made him wealthy.
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As they prepare for the evening, the family members bicker among themselves. Their teenage daughter Zoey (Adelaide Kane) doesn’t understand why her father doesn’t want her to continue seeing her 18-year-old boyfriend (Tony Oller). Charlie (Max Burkholder), who is younger, is afraid of The Purge and nervous about what might happen despite his parents’ assurances that everything will be all right.
While Charlie watches the security cameras, he sees a solitary pedestrian shouting for help just outside their house. Charlie’s subsequent decision affects the lives of many people and leads to a night of terror for the Sandins.
Obviously, this is not for children and not for the nervous. While it’s true this is a kind of a zombie-less zombie movie — we still have the microcosm of characters who represent the world at large trapped by an outside force — it’s also a kind of morality tale, muddled though it is at times.
The question that “The Purge” raises isn’t so much “What would you do in this situation?” but “How did this tradition begin in the first place?” It has no easy answers, but it’s sure to get you talking, and thinking, when you leave the theater.