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Review: “The Purge” senseless and contrived

Review: “The Purge” senseless and contrived

Rhys Wakefield plays a polite stranger in “The Purge.” Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures.

Review: “The Purge” senseless and contrived
June 06
13:27 2013

Preston Barta/Film Critic

Rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars

You know what’s more frustrating than watching a terrible movie? Watching a film that has so much potential but never puts it to any use. “The Purge” has one of the most terrifying and appealing concepts for a horror movie in recent years, but unfortunately, the film suffers from an overload of clichés, an unfocused script and nonsensical characters that you just want to slap silly.

The film takes place in the year 2022, where the government puts on an annual purge that allows crime to be legal for 12 hours, to inspire citizens to behave themselves the rest of the year. This initiative keeps crime and poverty at an all-time low. So don’t tick off your neighbor because there may be hell to pay.

While the idea is a tad extreme, the thought of law enforcement and medical help being suspended for a 12-hour period is downright chilling. So where does the film go wrong? Everywhere else.

When an intruder seeking refuge enters the highly secure home of Ethan Hawke’s character James Sandin during the purge, Sandin and his family make a series of dim-witted decisions that put their lives at risk. Now it’s up to Sandin to return the intruder to a group of “purgers,” that look like the a mix between the masked killers of 2007’s “The Strangers” and the Manson clan, or else things are not going to end well for him and his family.

Ethan Hawke and Lena Headly fight for their lives in “The Purge.” Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures.

Instead of being scary, tense or exciting in the least, “The Purge” is just incredibly irritating. The characters behave irrationally and don’t even act like human beings, which is heavily due to the poorly developed script by James DeMonaco, who previously worked on the mediocre 2005 remake of “Assault on Precinct 13.” It’s all contrived to keep the movie going, and the script sucks the life out of an otherwise interesting concept.

The performances in the film are pretty awful for the most part, which is sad because all of the actors are capable of outstanding work. Hawke gives an incredible performance in “Before Midnight,” which also comes out this week, but in this movie he isn’t given enough depth to even care if he lives or dies. Lena Headey, who plays Hawke’s wife, is also a great actress. She dominates the screen when she plays disdainful, strong female roles, such as her portrayal of Cersei Lannister on “Game of Thrones.” But here she’s stuck playing a generic mother figure that’s dumber than a box of rocks. If there is one performance to commemorate, it’s the leader of the purge gang, portrayed by Rhys Wakefield. He is a prime example of a creepy villain—displaying Joker-like theatrics that cause audiences to feel perturbed.

The horror genre is a tricky beast to tackle and pull off successfully. There have only been a handful of films in the past couple of years that have done so, such as last year’s efforts “The Cabin in the Woods” and “Sinister,” which also stars Hawke. Good horror requires a fresh and creative mind. Sadly, “The Purge” is another disappointment in a genre that is desperately trying to reinvent itself but keeps losing its footing.

“The Purge” opens today.

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