Bold premise of a long night without laws
THE PURGE (NC16)
IN THE Purge, the United States of 2022 has regained its mojo. The unemployment rate is at 1 per cent, crime is at an all-time low and the people have never been richer. How is this utopia possible?
The catch is that, for one night every year, all crime is legal - an annual act of nationwide catharsis that culls "non-contributing members of society" (those too poor to afford firearms and home protection).
One such night, domestic-security entrepreneur James Sandin (Ethan Hawke) and his obscenely rich family hunker down for the evening in their mansion.
Sandin's state-of-the-art fortress is the envy of his neighbours, as it is financed by their purchases of his intruder-repelling products. But, as Sandin says, no security system is impenetrable.
When his son, Charlie (Max Burkholder), naively lets a bloody stranger (Edwin Hodge) into their home, the family come under attack from a pack of lynchers in clown masks and armed with assault rifles.
The gang's ringleader, played to psychopathic perfection by Rhys Wakefield, delivers an ultimatum: Surrender the stranger or everyone inside dies.
Director James DeMonaco, who cut his teeth writing seige movies like The Negotiator and Assault On Precinct 13 (which also starred Hawke), ratchets up the tension through harrowing stand-offs and nail-biting stalks down dimly lit corridors.
As a thriller, The Purge is competent with its many plot twists and convincing performances.
It's just a shame that the film's audacious conceit of a night of crime without consequences is squandered on the well-worn home-invasion genre.
Instead of exploring the moral and political implications, this underwhelming flick leaves its audience feeling trapped and in the dark, much like its unfortunate protagonists.