Let Us Do Our Duty As Americans:
First off, purge your minds of all the negativity that the nay-sayers are throwing out there: The Purge is an effective little horror-thriller that is more than worth a look. And I’m not being condescending with the ‘little’ tag: coming in at just under an hour-and-a-half it’s not going to outstay its welcome. Nor, to be honest, is it going to stretch the old thinking process. In fact the most difficult thing that you’re going to have to do initially is to accept the rather daft premise of the film.
In the year 2022 there are a new crowd of chancers in the White House; and this will give you an idea of how far up their own asses they are:
“Blessed be our New Founding Fathers and America, a nation reborn. May God be with you all.”
What’s that you say? It sounds like the current administration? Ah, ye cynical lot! Well, maybe; but these beauties have almost wiped out unemployment and gotten the economy up and running again. And they’ve damned near eradicated crime altogether. And all because they give an annual 12-hour period in which citizens are entitled to commit any crime up to and including murder– and there will be no consequences. Nor will there be any law, medical or emergency services during this period which is known as The Purge.
The ‘haves’ barricade themselves behind their walls with state-of-the-art security and the ‘poor’…well, fuck them, it’s just too bad. So that part is realistic. But this once-a-year-massacre sorts all ills? I told you it was a hard concept to swallow.
But with that out of the way, on to the movie itself, written and directed by James deMonaco. (Actually, just typing that makes me wonder if that’s a real name? DeMonaco? Demonic? Ah, never mind: just thinking out loud.)
James Sandin (Ethan Hawke) is one of the ‘haves’. In fact he’s one of the guys who clean up at this time of the year with his security systems. Sadly, he’s oblivious to the fact—as he ponders a yacht so big that it has a garage—that this has led to a little envy amongst his well-heeled neighbours: “You made so much money off of us and then you stuck it in our faces.” Terrible things, jealousy and resentment. But also human.
If you include having the obligatory sulky teenage girl then James also has a pretty nice family: Mary (Lena Headey), Charlie (Max Burkeholder) and the aforementioned pain, Zoey (Adelaide Kane).
And with ‘Nice’ operating…uh, nicely, it’s time for the nuclear family to batten down the hatches for another yearly Purge. No big deal; they’ll just stay in their nice gated community behind their nice security system. This year is going to be different though. Son Charlie has already expressed his doubts on the morality of the whole thing, only to be told by Dad:
“You don’t remember how bad it was—the poverty, all the crime. This night saved our country.”
Still, Charlie changes the nature of the evening when he admits to the ‘fortress’ a homeless man who has been attacked and who is being chased by a masked mob of young, educated ‘haves’ whose intention is to purge themselves by beating the man to death. Initially reluctant, the family decide to give him sanctuary; and so a siege begins.
Obviously, the big markers for The Purge are two films that were enormously controversial in 1971: Sam Peckinpah’s brilliant, provocative and disturbing Straw Dogs; and Stanley Kubrick’s awful, overrated and unbelievably dated A Clockwork Orange. Of course it is far more surface violent than either of those two movies could have ever been; but a lot of the same ideas are there: the ‘home invasions’, the dubious direction in which society is moving and those bloody masks. But The Purge has something that they did not: it has Ray Davies of The Kinks as the scary leader of the gang.
I know what you’re going to say: it’s just an actor called Rhys Wakefield who looks like Ray Davies; but I know better. After all, he pulled the same stunt in Underworld where he played a baddie vampire—again, under an assumed name.
Now, I love the music of The Kinks, always have; but front man Ray Davies always creeped me out. And the idea of him standing outside my home, with that crazy smile and threatening all sorts? Not good. And Ray has a really bloody twisted view of the homeless guy who’s in fear of his life:
“He had the audacity to fight back. The pig doesn’t know his place and now he has to be taught a lesson. “
This tends to remind us of an argument briefly heard on the TV earlier in the evening. It is a debate on whether one of the aims of the Purge is the extinction of the poor, the needy, the sick and non-contributing members of society. To which I would have to say:
Don’t give our Beloved Leaders any ideas. If Enda Kenny and Gang thought that they could get away with it, they’d be having a weekly Purge, not an annual one.
“Things like this are not supposed to happen in our neighbourhood”, reckons James. He shouldn’t worry, though. He’s married to Queen Cersei from Game of Thrones.
Even Ray Davies would be advised to think twice before attacking that woman’s home.
Let’s skip the usual trailer and have a song from The Kinks, ‘I’m Not Like Everybody Else.” Just to complicate things this version is from A DIFFERENT FILM ENTIRELY, got that?
It’s actually from the brilliant God Bless America and if you haven’t seen it, what are you waiting for?
Take it away, Creepy Ray!