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The Purge (2013)

Director: James DeMonaco
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey, Max Burkholder, Edwin Hodge, Rhys Wakefield
Rated R 85 minutes

In the not-too-distant future, America seems to have undergone a soft-fascist revolution, where the "New Founding Fathers" have instituted a national holiday known as "the Purge." Once a year, for twelve hours, murder and mayhem is legal, and anyone with violent impulses is free to engage in whatever type of violence they desire, as long as they don't attack government officials or use explosives. On the surface the Purge seems to be a good thing; the crime rate is lower, the economy is better, and a high-tech alarm system salesman and Purge supporter named James Sandin (Ethan Hawke, SINISTER) is having his best year ever. As the holiday is about to begin, Sandin settles in for the long night with his wife (Lena Headey, LAID TO REST) and kids to wait out the twelve hours of hell in his seemingly well-protected home. As good as he thinks his alarm system is, it doesn't protect against threats from within, and his children, through a combination of conscience and stupidity, breech the system, and expose the Sandin home to a gang of country club psychos determined to kill a homeless man taking refuge in their house.

Rather than explore the savagery and cruelty of mankind in general, writer/director James DeMonaco chooses to take the easy way out and portrays society's most dangerous people as a group of prep school jacket-wearing rich kids who presumably attend Tea Party meetings on the nights they aren't stalking and tormenting the poor and the downtrodden. This community college sociology sensibility seriously undermines the film's secondary function as a brutal home invasion thriller by throwing light on each flaw in the film's concept. What's left is a fairly routine slasher film that isn't as tense or interesting as it could have been. The villains aren't frightening, the victims aren't sympathetic, and while it throws in a decent amount of gory violence in the final act, the film is unable to tie its concept and its execution together.

2 out of 5. 

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