Friday, 26 July 2013

The Purge (2013) - James DeMonaco

In the nearly future, America has managed to get its crime and unemployment down to a record low. How? By having a yearly purge whereby for one continual 12 hour period all crime is allowed. The emergency sevices get to stay home and put their feet up for the duration. There are certain rules worked into this notion, mainly so that no nutter can set off a nuclear device and claim it as part of the festivities. If you can buy into that idea then you might quite enjoy The Purge. Now as far as I can tell film wise this could have gone in two very different directions, depending very much on the budget. It could have been a Tom Cruise actioner with Tom battling his way across a ravaged cityscape in order to save his daughter who for some reason or other is outside when the purge begins. He’d be a cop who'd lost his wife to some street scum in an earlier purge, and had pledged her never to kill anyone during the blah blah blah. Which of course would be a bit yawnsome, and fairly pedestrian Hollywood fare.

Luckily we end up with the second option, smaller budget, less star power but a film that only has one writer credit, and in one of those moments that sets the heart racing, that writer is also the director. So far so good. James DeMonaco’s script centers around one family and one location. James Sandin (Ethan Hawke) is a top salesman for a home security firm, home security obviously being big business in a day and age when it’s possible that your neighbour can legally take your head off with a machete because your dog barks too loud. Now let’s just say James is doing aright, he can afford enough high tech stuff to make sure that his family - wife Mary (Lena Headey) and two kids Charlie (Max Burkholder) and Zoey (Adelaide Kane) - can ride out purge night without any trouble. Except that would make for a very boring film, so when a guy runs down their street screaming for help little Max decides to let him in. He’s not just an ordinary guy though, he’s black! A black man loose in white suburbia, you can see where it’s going already can’t you? The shit hits the fan when an angry mob turn up at the Sandin’s front door and demand the guy be sent out to them so they can kill him. It’s a moral quandary. The Sandin family are given two options, send him out and be spared, or hold onto him and the mob will break in and kill them all.

It’s not really anything you haven’t seen before, especially if you grew up with John Carpenter films such as Assault on Precinct 13, the remake of which had a screenplay by none other than (drum role) James DeMonaco. The Purge is set up more as a moral dilemma film than an all out action siege thing though, and for the first third works fairly well. DeMonaco is no great shakes as a director, he’s not awful but he’s not very interesting either. Luckily his two leads are top notch and felt believable as a couple. The kids are just generic American white teeth and good hair kids. In other words - boring. DeMonaco piles on things that you know are going to come into play during the last third of the film, the son has a medical condition, the neighbours are jealous etcetera.

Around the half way point The Purge turnes a corner and becomes quite ordinary, lots of shooting and all the typical tropes you’d expect from a bad home invasion film. The ethics of killing people is adressed throughout the film, but not in a very good way. Which is a shame since it could have been a taught little film, maybe not quite up to the standard of Ils, but something more along the lines of Cherry Tree Lane. In the end though, you won’t care what happens. Once the bullets start flying your brain will start to wander. Worth watching once, if you’re bored and have nothing better to watch. But how often does that happen?

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...