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It sure made a lot of money, but this Ethan Hawke sci-fi action flick is a futuristic turkey...
Universal / 85 Minutes / 2013 / Rated R / Street Date: October 8, 2013
Oh, man – as both a movie freak and a card-carrying sci-fi geek, I was desperate to find a way into The Purge. The film was a breakout smash during its release this summer (a real indie little engine that could), and its premise is something straight out of the Phillip K. Dick playbook: because life in the USA is so nice in calendar year 2022, the government allows any kind of criminal activity (save widespread terrorism or harm to high-profile public officials) for a twelve-hour period called ‘The Purge’. I’m in!
But James DeMonaco lets the needless complexities of his film get away from him, and things quite simply fly off the rails. Subplots and multifaceted character ‘depths’ become groan-inducingly dull, and any dystopian fun the movie’s premise prescribed dissipates to a frustrating minimum. Ethan Hawke and a strong cast of fresh faces do what they can to lend the movie a Blade Runner seriousness, but their behind-the-scenes compatriots don’t manifest the same competency.
As The Purge plods through its middle section, one is left sitting on the couch wondering where it all went wrong. There’s certainly an enthusiasm and a kind of storytelling inertia to the saga at hand – the movie, if anything, feels like it’s on the verge of being REALLY INTENSE a lot – but it feels as though every legitimate setup ends up undermining itself with rampant cliché and a brutal presentation of violence that feels unnecessary and redundant.
Thankfully, though, The Purge is shorter than it could have been – it clocks it under ninety minutes. For viewers like myself who look to futuristic sci-fi movies as veritable catnip, it’s hard not to succumb to The Purge’s synopsis draw, but only the most forgiving film dorks will be able to give this thing a passing grade. It comes with the delicious potential to be a left-field indie sci-fi gem, but disappointingly ends up being just another terrible action flick you wish you hadn’t spent the last few hours with.