6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Home invasion hackfest with a serious subtext,
This review is from: The Purge [DVD]  (DVD)
The Purge is a confused film. It doesn't know whether it's an observational social commentary, delivering a serious message about American society (and possibly US foreign policy), or whether instead it should revel in a frenzy of hack-n-slash B-movie BOO! moments. So the result is neither one thing nor t'other, a mismash of earnest seriousness and blood-spattered axe attacks.
There's some good stuff in here: the film inverts the usual stereotypes by making it clear that it's the middle classes who tend to run amok during the annual 12-hour amnesty in which anything goes. They've taken right-wing politics to its extreme and decided that the poor really are the problem... and the best way to cure that problem is to go hunt them down, almost as a civic duty. There are echoes of the Roman gladiatorial contests here, where a ritualised (in this case, televised) blood-letting serves to dampen down casual violence for the rest of the year.
The eerie masks worn by one group of preppie Purgers are very reminiscent of Clockwork Orange - as indeed are many of the themes, with well-spoken polite young men demonstrating Grade A homicidal tendencies with pump-action shotguns. The Purge also has echoes of Lord of the Flies about it; we are only ever a couple of steps removed from the jungle, and all that red in tooth and claw stuff. Civilisation is just a thin veneer, and here it is stripped away... with machetes.
But all that serious commentary doesn't sit so well with the standard horror movie 'trapped in a building until dawn', 'psychos at the door' type of plot device. There are a couple of notable surprises and some fairly tense moments, but The Purge fails to reach an emotional peak or offer a solid conclusion. It just kinda fizzles to a halt at the end.
Ethan Hawke puts in a solid performance, however, and The Purge leaves the viewer with plenty to consider. Unlike most big-ticket films, it doesn't feel the need to spell out every single plot point (so you may see dogtags on one of the characters but we don't have to be told that he's an ex-soldier). It raises the question of national security and whether it can ever be achieved, or whether it's only possible to give (or sell) the population the *appearance* of security. In some ways, I've enjoyed thinking about The Purge afterwards more than I liked it while I was actually watching it!
So if you want to be challenged by these kind of themes, and don't mind some moments of extreme and explicit violence, then this is an interesting evening's viewing. if you prefer your movies to be more all-out action and less ambiguous, then you might want to give it a miss.