"Our target for this year's purge is hiding in your home. You have one hour to find him and give him to us or we will kill all of you. We will be coming in."
In my opinion The Purge failed both as a home invasion thriller and as a social satire towards American society. It didn't work as a thriller because I never felt tension or chills during the invasion. I didn't really care for the characters in this film and it didn't bother me either way if they survived or didn't. The characters were just too dumb and commit too many mistakes, while the villains felt cartoonish at times and the psychological terror never worked like it did in The Strangers for example. The film did manage to make a respectful amount of money at the box-office so unfortunately a sequel is already in the works. The premise of this story was beyond ridiculous and director/screenwriter James DeMonaco (The Negotiator and Assault on Precinct 13) never managed to sell the futuristic story to me. I don't see a future America acting according to this law. Critics might say this wasn't meant to be real, rather more of a social satire. Well in that case it didn't work either because other films like The Hunger Games managed to make a more believable satire on today's society than The Purge did. This film tries to create cheap thrills that never work and is full of cliche moments and one dimensional characters who we really never care for. Whatever moral statement DeMonaco was trying to make I wasn't really feeling it. He kind of made a similar movie to Assault on Precinct 13 although this time he incorporated the home invasion element instead of the prison. He even had Ethan Hawke star in that film as well. The Purge doesn't have to make sense if it really achieves its goal in scaring the audience but it doesn't and therefor one begins over thinking the plot. The Purge is lazy filmmaking and a very forgettable one.
The film takes place in 2020 and in order to combat violence the American government has allowed an annual twelve hour period in which all criminal activity is permitted (including murder). They call this day "the purge" because they believe that this way all citizens can release the tension they've kept inside during the year. In reality the people who are more vulnerable are the poor who can't defend themselves or lock themselves in their home. This way America has prospered as a society and the criminal rate is practically non existent. James Sandin (Ethan Hawke) is one of those citizens who has benefited from the purge because as a security salesman he has made a lot of money selling his product. He and his family are safe thanks to the advanced security system in his home. His wife Mary (Lena Headey) and two children Charlie (Max Burkholder) and Zoey (Adelaide Kane) are locked down in their home as the purge is about to begin. It seems like it is going to be a safe night for them, but when Charlie decides to help out a stranger (Edwin Hodge) and lets him in his home things begin to get complicated for the Sandins. Will they be able to survive the night? Suddenly they don't feel safe after all.
The thrills in this film are extremely cheap and every scene seems perfectly staged. Nothing about the film feels real and the characters are far from being real human beings who we can identify with. Ethan Hawke in the lead role gives one of his worst performances to date and the kids in this film are both terrible (the characters they play, not their performance), they make one stupid decision after another. The dialogue doesn't work either and the villains in this film are a joke. Rhys Wakefield tries to play a villain in a similar way as Heath Ledger played the Joker but it really didn't work at all. Even the continuity in this film is a mess. Everything happens in one night and Ethan Hawke starts off with a clean shave and halfway through the movie he has a goatee. The other problem I had with this film is that these rich people instead of spending so much money on a security system could've simply left the country for one day and returned without having to worry about anything. These sort of things I probably wouldn't have questioned if the thrills would've worked, but since the film begins to drag and feel dull you begin to question things. The Purge doesn't live up to other home invasion thrillers and I'm afraid that as a satire it doesn't say anything new about society's culture and obsession over violence. After this movie is over with you will want to purge yourself of the memory of having spent 85 minutes watching this unimaginative film.