The premise, as detailed at the beginning of Universal Studios’ new thriller “The Purge” is that America is once again great! Unemployment is all the way down to 1% and the economy is super strong. This is only possible because, once a year, for 12 hours, all crime is legal – including murder. However, in order to attempt to enjoy this story, one almost has to purge the mind of any degree of sensibility and hope the suspension of disbelief would be strong enough to break the barrier of absurdity.
With barely enough time to let the premise for the film’s carnage take hold (and how much time can a 90-minute movie devote to such trivial topics like selling the overall story anyhow?), this R-rated romp of violence resorts to over-use of close ups in a desperate attempt to endear the audience to protagonist and family man James Sandin. Predictable and bordering on unbelievable, order and sanity plummet as the namesake Purge (designed to purge citizens of their hate and violence) commences.
During the course of that one frightening night, the body count rises with a bit of eerie imagery that could fittingly find its way into popular haunted themed attractions later this year (*ahem* Halloween Horror Nights *ahem*). Obvious plot “twists” attempt to make the movie interesting, but ultimately this is an hour and a half of gratuitous (and often gory) violence with occasional suspense tossed in to keep some interest.
While “The Purge” is hardly a motion picture masterpiece, interwoven dark humor and a stellar performance by Rhys Wakefield make the madness somewhat enjoyable. Wakefield’s villainy is almost akin to Heath Ledger’s Joker and is the one gem in this otherwise average study of what happens when morality is suspended.
Sadly even the promise of nationwide chaos is lost as very little of the scope this horrific premise is depicted. Instead we’re left with only a small slice of tragedy limited to the home of one very unfortunate family.
This film is not the must-see that was hoped for. Over-the-top, gun-slinging, axe-wielding violence and dark humor aside, glaring plot holes and raging predictability keep “The Purge” from being the dark delight it could have been.
“The Purge” invades theaters nationwide today.