R (strong disturbing violence and some language); 85 min.
The Purge is a high-concept home-invasion shocker set in a future where one night a year, all crime is legal. But what should be a clammy exercise in claustrophobic tension becomes, in the hands of writer/director James DeMonaco, an underpowered compendium of over-familiar scare tactics and sledgehammer-subtle social satire.
Its 2022, and in the U.S., crime and poverty have dwindled drastically since the election of the New Founding Fathers presumably in 2014.
They wasted no time in introducing The Purge, a nationwide catharsis, which runs for 12 hours starting at 7 p.m. on March 21, during which time the violent homicidal unleashing of rage is positively encouraged as a patriotic duty.
While the plausibility of such an extreme scenario springing up in less than a decade is debatable, more feasible is the accompanying boom in private security spending as citizens who can afford to barricade themselves into their homes do so. This lines the pockets of folks like security-biz entrepreneur James Sandin (Ethan Hawke), who has equipped his own residence with the latest intruder-repelling technology. But no lockdown is airtight, and the Sandin family find themselves under siege when they provide sanctuary to a homeless man (Edwin Hodge).
DeMonaco has spoken of his debt to Sam Peckinpahs Straw Dogs and John Carpenters Assault on Precinct 13. But The Purge never threatens to become more than the sum of its various parts. And its frustrating that while we hear about the horrors unfolding elsewhere in the country, all we see is brief glimpses of surveillance-camera footage that hint at unbridled savagery.
Neil Young, The Hollywood Reporter