The Purge
dir-scr James DeMonaco
prd Michael Bay, Jason Blum, Andrew Form, Bradley Fuller, Sebastien Lemercier
with Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey, Adelaide Kane, Max Burkholder, Edwin Hodge, Rhys Wakefield, Tony Oller, Arija Bareikis, Chris Mulkey, Tisha French, Tom Yi, Dana Bunch
release UK 31.May.13, US 7.Jun.13
13/US Universal 1h25
The Purge
Home invasion: Burkholder and Headey

hawke headey wakefield
See also:
The Purge: Anarchy (2014) The Purge: Election Year (2016)
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The Purge There's a clever slant to this home-invasion thriller, which explores the pent-up anger and rage of the privileged classes toward those who seem to be taking advantage of them. The film has a strong whiff of Twilight Zone moralising to it, but it's also genuinely unsettling and often downright terrifying.

In 2022, James and Mary (Hawke and Headey) are settling down for the annual Purge with their teen children Zoey and Charlie (Kane and Burkholder). In this 12-hour period people are free to commit any crime, including murder, to clean out society's undesirables. So with the homeless and unemployed killed off, the economy is booming. And James is doing particularly well as a security system salesman. But two interlopers get into their house after lockdown: Zoey's boyfriend Henry (Oller) and a terrified stranger (Hodge) who's being chased by a gang of masked anarchists.

Hawke and Headey are terrific as the wealthy, healthy couple with two typically distant teens. As their world disintegrates around them, their descent into a more primal state is eerily believable. Kane and Burkholder also have more interesting roles than we expect, taking their characters' stereotypes (sassy rebel and geeky boffin) in unexpected directions. The well-cast Hodge also gets some fascinating moments, even if we can see where his character is headed. And as the leader of the attackers, Wakefield oozes smiling menace.

Filmmaker DeMonaco creates a terrific sense of growing dread with askance comments from neighbours that hint at bitterness behind these finely landscaped front yards. So some of the story's more startling turns aren't actually that surprising, and some feel a bit overwrought. But the script continually probes beneath the surface, digging into the moral quagmire in which the privileged accept and even promote the "cleansing" of society.

No, the ethical themes aren't actually that complex, but the way DeMonaco puts this family through the wringer raises issues that are worth discussing, even as he freaks us out in a variety of clever ways. We start to wonder what we might do in the same situation, then watch as the characters themselves grapple with their own responses. And as this harrowing night progresses, the scariest thing is that, even if they survive, nothing can ever be the same again.

cert 15 themes, language, strong violence 28.May.13

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© 2013 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall