Ethan Hawke plays a successful businessman who, on the night of the annual purge, takes refuge in his mansion of a house with his wife, two children and his maximum security system. We learn that the Purge was created in order to combat against violence and crime and has been a huge success as criminal activity has dropped to 1% (come again?) throughout the course of each year in the US. It takes place once a year between 7pm and 7am, during this time all bets are off. Violence and crime is tolerated (yes even murder) as its seen as a way for people to release the beast inside and thus lead a more fulfilling life (!?). Completely ridiculous concept, but original nonetheless and one that opens the door to many possibilities.
It starts well enough as we are introduced to the family and what the Purge entails. The tension builds leading up to 7pm and there are a couple of characters outside of the family to which you feel are possibly hiding something more sinister inside. It builds, it builds, it builds and then boom! Nothing. Unless you enjoy watching a toy remote control car try to communicate with a seeming mute man in the dark, then this is a damp squib of a movie that has no direction whatsoever. It’s all over the place with cliches and ideas, yet nothing pays off. The second act in particular is painfully slow, monotonous and repetitive. It’s not scary or funny and, first act aside, it’s not remotely suspenseful either. So what is it? It’s a mess.
It’s high on concept and low on content. The final 10 minutes is so completely bonkers that it does elevate the film everso slightly, but by that point you really have given up all hope. There’s a good film hiding in there somewhere but with plot holes galore, pointless scenes chucked in for no apparent reason and an absence of real quality, The Purge is a missed opportunity. In a world where remakes are dominating the horror genre, it is a real shame that a film with an innovative idea forgot to have fun with it.