The Purge is being marketed as glossy teen horror. It’s actually a slice of low-budget, high-concept sci-fi, a passionate, if somewhat pulpy, homage to paranoid classics such as The Stepford Wives.
In America in 2022 crime is no longer a problem because the government has set aside a night, called The Purge, when it’s lawful to maim and kill
As in The Hunger Games, the annihilation will be televised, and resistance, in case you were wondering, is futile. Wealthy liberals who attempt to spoil the fascistic fun will themselves become targets.
Which is what happens here. Quite inadvertently, businessman James Sandin (Hawke) offers a safe haven to a have-not. As a result, his family, and their seemingly impregnable mansion, are no longer safe.
Writer-director James DeMonaco has spent his working life in TV and is not a big-screen natural. But he does know how to wrongfoot us, mainly by using the talents of Hawke.
The latter is a funny fellow. He appeared on the scene around the same time as Ben Affleck and, back then, the pretty actors seemed to have their eyes on the same kind of prize.
These days, Affleck plays heroes, while Hawke, by contrast, seems fascinated by the fine line between heroes and monsters. His character in The Purge, for example, is a decent, hard-working family guy who, morally, has his head buried in the sand (Sand-in, see?). His behaviour, at every turn, is shocking.
The Purge explores America’s toxic obsession with extreme wealth and the right to bear arms. But anyone familiar with the Bosnian Civil War, or the events that led to genocide in Rwanda, will find the film’s thesis disturbingly relevant. What happens when our loved-ones and neighbours get hold of weapons? Nothing good, suggests this bloody postcard from the edge.