The Purge Review: Releasing the Beast

images (17)Oh, the high concept movie.  In a world filled with generic, derivative premises for generic, derivative films, it can so often be a breath of fresh air that discerning audiences so desperately need.  This will of the public to see something they haven’t seen before is reflected in the baffling amount of success The Purge has met at the domestic Box Office this past weekend, now standing as the highest opening for any original R-Rated Horror movie of all time.  Between this and Now You See Me, it seems like audiences are still more than ready to embrace originality on the off chance that the end result actually follows through on whatever intriguing premise it offers up.  Most of the time that off chance doesn’t pay off, but there are always those special outliers that either soar to the highest heights or sink to the lowest of lows.  You may be able to guess which category this particular gem falls into.  Proving once again that different isn’t necessarily better, The Purge surrounds its offensively idiotic premise with a set of bland performances and some of the worst writing I’ve seen in years.

The Plot: 2/10

A family is held hostage for harboring the target of a murderous syndicate during the Purge, a 12-hour period in which any and all crime is legalized.

What seriously baffles me is the amount of people who are claiming that the premise of this movie is its most intriguing aspect.  I recognize that it’s nice to have a little texturing images (18)added to the home invasion frame (which takes up most of the plot here), but you’ve got to be able to do better than this.  I’ll probably wind up doing a separate post entirely on my issues with the premise, but the biggest one that I will mention here is that it assumes that the only thing holding most Americans back from unprovoked, remorseless murder is the fear of going to jail afterwards.  I recognize the point that we’re a violent species when it comes to the movies we watch and the news we care about, but that doesn’t mean that the majority of the population would start hunting their fellow man when given the slightest chance.  As I said, full break-down coming soon.

The Writing: 1/10

My god, I can’t even begin to describe how bad the writing is.  Horror movies might not offer up the best examples of fleshed out characters, but that doesn’t mean that the images (23)writers have a free pass to completely clock out on the character development process altogether.  To be fair, there’s so much dialogue devoted to explaining The Purge itself that there isn’t much space left for much else.  That being said, if you’re going to remove all focus on characters and place it upon the construction of your central premise, that premise had better be a damn good one.  That’s just not the case here.

However bad the characterization his, the dialogue is worse.  Imagine one of those ransom letters with letters from magazines cut and pasted into words.  Replace the images (20)letters with cliché family dialogue from any movie in the past decade and the ransom letter becomes The Purge‘s script.  Things go further downhill once the villains arrive; the main villain is one “Swine” away from becoming the subject of a drinking game.  The worst part of the dialogue is when people start talking about The Purge with cultish devotion, revering the “New Founding Fathers” as if they were some sort of second coming.  I get the sense it was meant to come off as creepy but it just comes off as silly.

The Acting: 1/10

It’s always hard to watch when good actors give terrible performance.  Ethan Hawke seems be becoming one of those fallen few lately, yet for whatever reason he seems to the-purge-17remain devoted to the partnership he’s formed with director Joe DeMonaco (who had previously worked with Hawke on Little New York and Assault on Precinct 13).  To be fair, nobody here is given much to work with in the character department, but it’s still sad to see such flat performances from such talented people (Lena Headey, why!).  Still, those performances look Oscar-worthy compared to Max Burkholder and Adelaide Kane as the Sandin children.  The fact that Kane’s biggest claim to fame is her alumni status from Power Rangers: R.P.M. should give you an idea of what I’m talking about.

In the villain arena, you’d normally think that it’d be a good thing for the main bad guy’s face to be even more frightening than the “scary mask” he puts on (think Willem Dafoe images (19)in Spider-Man).  Somehow, the movie manages to ruin even this aspect of movie-villain wisdom.  Rhys Wakefield completely overdoes it on the creepy smile department, coming across not as menacing and dangerous but as if he was just trying to do his best Joker impression.  There are a few other awful performances I can’t go into without spoiling one of the big “twists” of the movie, but hopefully you’ll never have to find out what those are assuming you stay far away from this movie.

The Scares: 4/10

The biggest fault people have been finding with this movie is that it devolves into a Under the bedtypical home invasion movie within about half an hour.  Honestly, in comparison to my issues with the premise itself, I thought this was the least terrible part of the movie.  I know it’s been done before, but I will take a cliché premise done well over an original premise done poorly any day.  After the outright boredom of the first half of the movie, I was at least mildly entertained once Ethan stopped talking and started defending his family.

But wait, you might say, doesn’t this preference for the violent aspects of the film just prove its point that we’re a violent people that like violence and other violence-ish things?  To that I would say that we as a society only like watching violence when there’s a reason behind that violence.  Whether you’re defending your family, avenging a loved one’s death, or any number of other somewhat valid reasons, the audience needs some sort of reason for violence to occur other than “because I feel like it”.

The Verdict: 2.0/10 – A Symphony of Suck

+ It’s only 85 minutes

- The premise makes less and less sense the more you hear of it

- The writing is a cut-and-paste assembly of various clichés

- There is not a single decent performance to be found

Critical Consensus:

IMDb:  5.9/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 41 %

Metacritic: 43/100

Other Reviews: 

Fogs’ Movie Reviews: B

PG Cooper’s Movie Reviews: 6.5/10

Dan the Man Movie Reviews: 5/10

The Phi Phenomenon: C

The Code is Zeek: 2/5

The Filmster: 2/5

Digital Shortbread: 2.5/10

The Average: 4.6/10 – Sub-Par

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About r361n4

I'm a student at the University of Washington Majoring Business. I've always loved movies and my goal is to work on the financial side of the film industry. Until then though, I figure I'll spare my friends from my opinions and shout them from a digital mountaintop for anyone who's interested. After all, if a tree falls in a forest and nobody blogs about it, does it really happen?
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36 Responses to The Purge Review: Releasing the Beast

  1. The second image you included in the “writing” section looks EXACTLY like an iconic shot of Kyle MacLachlan in Blue Velvet. Just have to look at that to see that it is, in fact, clichéd. Lol.

  2. “A Symphony of Suck” – classic summary.

    I’ve seen the posters plastered everywhere in Scotland and the premise itself puts me off entirely and yet there’s that tiny voice saying ‘watch it!!’. I don’t like horror but the premise is absurd – one night of terror then…hi rapist neighbour! hello, mass murderer best friend…and then life resumes as normal.

    It’s the Hollywood spastication you come to expect now.

    • r361n4 says:

      Lol, I thought so at least

      As you can see in the Other Reviews section, not everyone hated it as much as I did so I can’t completely say don’t see it. That being said, the biggest thing people seem to like about this one is the premise so if that doesn’t appeal to you, I seriously doubt you’ll find much else to grab onto.

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  4. Nick Powell says:

    I am still going to see it :-D

    • r361n4 says:

      Interested to hear what you think. It’s entirely possible you won’t hate it as much as I did, especially if you go into it with lowered expectations

  5. keith7198 says:

    So you’re saying give it a watch? ;)

  6. Minako says:

    I definitely agree with you on this one. Especially the writing! Holy cow. It was bordering on comedic at certain points. I did actually laugh out loud when they all started chanting together that weird crap about the new founding fathers and such. And Ethan Hawke definitely should have started shooting people wayyyyy earlier in the movie.

    • r361n4 says:

      I Know! He’s like “It’s time to fight back” after already basically committing to the opposite strategy. For once can we get a horror movie with semi-intelligent characters?

  7. Tom says:

    “The worst part of the dialogue is when people start talking about The Purge with cultish devotion, revering the “New Founding Fathers” as if they were some sort of second coming. I get the sense it was meant to come off as creepy but it just comes off as silly.” — I couldn’t have said it better myself. Without providing any spoilers, by the time the ending came around I was laughing my fool head off at this thing. I’m pretty sure that’s not in the director’s game plan — to have his horror fans/screen attendees in chuckles.

  8. CMrok93 says:

    An inspired premise, that plays out in such a dumb and conventional way, you almost forget the promise that was around in the first couple of minutes. Nice review Andy.

    • r361n4 says:

      Thanks Dan, my only disagreement was that I didn’t really like the premise in the first place but I do get that it’s nice to see something, anything, that breaks out of the norm

  9. Yikes. This is the harshest review of The Purge I’ve read so far. Great write-up, though!

  10. Frame Rates says:

    I reviewed it and agree! Although I’d go as far to say its the worst movie I’ve seen this year. Even worse than Lords of Salem. Boring, confused and just downright rubbish.

  11. Stop sitting on the fence Andy. Tell us what you really think! ;)

  12. Garrett says:

    Good review. Haven’t seen it yet, but I couldn’t agree more about the premise.

  13. Zoë says:

    Ouch on the score, and I really wanted to see what this was all about. But it is not getting any really good feedback…

  14. Haha you are not a fan! :D

  15. Monkeyboy says:

    So it’s basically just another home invasion movie? I feared it would be, judging by the trailers. I think I’m off to see it this week, so hope I like it more than you. I get a feeling I won’t though. :(

    • r361n4 says:

      My guess is you’ll land somewhere between revulsion and indifference judging by what I’ve seen so far, but who knows, you could love it. Interested to hear what you think though

  16. Tom says:

    Cool man, thanks so much for adding me to the list! :)

  17. Beer Movie says:

    Great review. Always a little brutal when the best thing you can say about a film is that it’s short (which you can’t actually say about many mainstream films these days).

  18. dadsjustknow says:

    I also posted a review of this movie on my blog http://dadsjustknow.tk. I didn’t tear it apart as much as you did though. The movie I really cant wait for is World War Z. If they deviated as much as it looks in the trailers they have ruined a really good book. Still I love zombies and it may be fun to watch

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