Reviewed by Kevin Finnerty
“Our target for this year’s purge is hiding in your home. You have one hour to find him and give him to us or we will kill all of you,” says the polite stranger (Rhys Wakefield) to James Sandin (Ethan Hawke) and his family who have let a beaten and bloody stranger (Edwin Hodge) into their home on the one night of the year when all crime is legal in the dramatic film The Purge.
Set in the near future, America has sanctioned a 12 hour period one day a year where all crime is legal – including murder – and all police agencies and hospitals suspend assistance. It’s on this night that Charlie Sandin (Max Burkholder) lets a beaten stranger screaming for help and a place to hide into his father’s house. After his dad resets all the home’s defenses and the security system – which he himself sells to home owners – a group of young preppie strangers show up knocking at the front door, explaining to the Sandins that they’re protecting a homeless nobody who they handpicked to kill during the yearly purge. The young leader of the murderous preppies tells the Sandins that they have the right equipment coming which will tear off the house’s security system and allow them to enter. If they don’t hand over the bloody stranger, they will murder James and his entire family.
Terrified and conflicted, James and his wife, Mary (Lena Headey), struggle and argue over whether or not to turn over the stranger to the bloodthirsty group outside or to put up a fight and try to protect everyone in the house.
Preposterous and boring, The Purge is a tedious thriller with zero scares. The film has nothing new or original to offer any horror movie fan and all the characters are one-dimensional.
Ethan Hawke gives perhaps the worst performance of his career as the clueless father who at first has no problem turning over the poor stranger hiding in his home to the wannabe killers outside and then decides to fight instead. It’s shocking that he doesn’t have, say, a panic room in his house for just such an emergency considering he’s an expert on security and sells systems for a living! Hawke, however, is not the worst performer in this mess of a movie. No, that award has to go to young Max Burkholder as James’ young, empathetic son Charlie who starts all the terror for his family by letting in the stranger in the first place. He conveys almost no emotion and has one look on his face for most of the film, which looks like he’s staring off into space.
The writing and pacing of the film are dismal with nothing really happening of any consequence for the first 40 minutes. The dialogue is weak and the script has most of the characters doing things you would never do in life and death situations, not to mention that since it’s the Sandins’ house being invaded in the latter part of the film, the family should have the advantage of knowing the lay-out and best places to strike from. But in The Purge it’s the killers who always get the upper hand.
A combination of terrible performances, a horrible script, and zero scares in what’s supposed to be a thriller make The Purge a front-runner for being the worst film of 2013.
The Purge opens in theaters on June 7, 2013 and is rated R for strong disturbing violence and some language.
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