Thursday, August 8, 2013

Thoughts on... The Purge

The Purge Movie Poster
Hey there. What would you do if any and all crime was legal for 12 hours?  Would you lock down at home?  Would you go out and loot, steal, and kill to your heart's content?  If allowing all crime to be legal for 12 hours will guarantee you that there will be NO crime for the rest of the year, will your moral compass accept "The Purge?"  When I first heard of this movie, I thought that the concept of it was intriguing.  Sometime in future America, for 12 full hours, all crime is legal.  There will be no cops, no medical personel.  Every man, woman, and child for themselves.  This, my friends, is The Purge.  By allowing the citizens to participate in The Purge, crime during the rest of the year is practically non existant.  I caught this movie last weekend and I must say that I definitely have some thoughts on it, but first, a warning:  SPOILERS AHEAD!!!  Go catch the movie, and then come back and let's have a discussion, friends!  Now, my thoughts on... The Purge.

That's Ethan Hawke?!  Wow...  The guy in Training Day, opposite of Denzel Washington?!  Yeah... him.  I couldn't tell whether or not it was actually him during the opening scenes of the film.  As far as I can remember, I haven't seen him in anything worth while since... well... Training Day.  lol  I was pleasantly surprised to see him in this film.  I loved Training Day and I thought I would see more of Ethan Hawke but it's been, what?  Over 10 years since Training Day so hopefully he'll put in a worthy performance in The Purge and get to see him in more noteworthy stuff.

Now, the film doesn't out right say it, but this film is more about the morality levels of The Purge than the actual Purge itself.  Early in the film, it's implied that The Purge is like a holiday.  With advance security protecting homes, many of the neighborhood families have parties during The Purge.  We even see the Sandin Family (Ethan Hawke's family - James & Mary and their kids, Charlie and Zooey) watching some Purge coverage on TV like it's no big deal.  But the young one, Charlie Sandin, has his reservations.  He doesn't see why there is a need to Purge and even asks his Dad, James, that if it came down to it, would he participate.  James responds with a politically correct answer... he pretty much tells him that if he had to, he would, but because there is no need to Purge anything in his life, he does not particiate.  I think this plants the seeds of the morality compass early in the film.  Obviously, James is fine with The Purge since he's the guy selling everyone the advance home protection systems to protect homes from those that participate in the Purge.  He is a rich man because of it.  His son, however, doesn't see the need for The Purge to happen in the first place.  This is where I had a huge problem with the film.  There was no history of The Purge.  As an audience, we have absolutely no understanding as to why it's even taking place.  We don't know why it started.  We don't know why it continues.  We don't know why America treats it as a holiday.  It would have been GREAT to know why The Purge takes place.  It would give us a better understanding as to why James is OK with it while his son, which should be learning some type of history of The Purge in school, is not.  Maybe they're setting it up so that The Purge 2 is about it's beginning?  Maybe they did explain it and it complete went over my head.  Who knows, but it was a big thorn on my side during the whole film not knowing why The Purge is taking place to begin with.
Damn it, Charlie!  What have you done?!?!

Continuing with the morality theme of the film, Charlie sees someone in the security cameras being attacked, or chased, by people participating in The Purge.  Charlie, then brings down the house's defenses and let's the man in, much to the disbelief of his family.  This starts the chain of events that bring many of the action scenes in the film.  In short, a group of "purgers" wish to purge themselves on the man that the Sandins have in thier home.  Unless they cough the man up, the purgers will break into the house and purge themselves on everyone.  Charlie continues to help the man (by use of one of the most awesome remote controlled robots I have ever seen!) while his family decides that what is best is to give the man over to the purgers.  With lights out and guns drawn, James tries to keep his family together while he goes out to find the man.  Though we clearly have an enemy at this time (the purgers) we have a conflict inside the home as well.  Should James toss the man out and save his family?  That question comes to a head when they capture the man and James essentially tells him to man up, accept his fate and go outside so that he can save his family.  Clearly, James is in "I'm saving my family, no matter what" mode.  Mary, on the other hand, has a change of heart.  While tying up the man, James asks Mary to stick the letter opener into the man's flesh wound.  She's clearly uncomfortable with it and you can tell that it pushes her moral compass to say this ain't right.  Eventually, James sees he's wrong as well and they decide to not give the guy up and fight the purgers.

Now...  this is where I believe the film lost me a bit.  I get it, I get the whole, I'll do anything for my family but now I'm going to save this man I don't know and will fight dozens of purgers because I'm Ethan Hawke and this film needs to be awesome.  But up until this point, the film has been playing the "this can happen to you" vibe.  A family is being threatened and they are in serious trouble.  I'm sorry, but he making a 180 while he's just about to turn the man over to the purgers does not seem believable at all.  Why fight?  His family is scared.  His wife is visibly shaken.  His son seems to have some kind of illness (since he's constantly checking his heart monitor).  He shot his daughter's boyfriend.  The dude has some serious mending to do in house before he can worry about anyone else.  My moral compass may be off, but if I was James in that point in time, the dude would have been wheeled outside.  Considering the pros and cons of the situation...  guy goes outside, my family is safe.  Guy stays inside, we may all be killed by dozens of murderous bastards.  I also see what the film is trying to convey.  The Sandins do not want to become the mosters that the purgers are.  But here's the thing...  They are not!  They are being placed in a compromising position.  They are not out there participating in mayhem because they want to.  The situation fell upon them by an unfortunate event.  In this instance, I would NOT hold it against them to protect themselves from monsters.  Again, maybe my moral compass is off here but if I were James, I wouldn't have made the choice he made.  I don't know, man...  I don't know...
Then again... I'm not so sure that I can trust these faces.

Moving on, the purgers break in, mayhem ensues.  Ethan Hawke goes Ethan Hawke on them and in the end, the leader of the purgers end up fatally stabbing James.  Right when it looks like the purgers are going to put an end on the Sandins, the neighborhood patrons gather up in the Sandin's home and start blasting and hacking at the purgers.  Yay!  All is well and everything is going to be fine!  NOT!!!!  The neighbors have hated the Sandins for years and are taking this opportunity to get rid of them.  James dies from his wound, Mary and the kids are tied up. And just when they are about to be slaughtered by the neighbors, the guy that Charlie saves comes in and saves the family.  The guy says that it's Mary's choice whether he blasts them away or let's the neighbors live.  Mary spares their lives.  Mary then has EVERYONE sit at what looks like dinner table until The Purge is called off.  But right before everyone walks out, Mary does a wicked face to table slam on a neighbor and breaks the neighbor's nose.  Mary thanks the man for helping her and her family and then they look outside at the mayhem that occurred that night while a news broadcast states that this was the "most successful" purge ever.  The end.  Wait... what?  That's it???

I wasn't happy with the ending.  Mary just saw her husband die by chosing to fight.  She was damn near murdered by her neighbors and she decided to let them live?  I don't agree with that, Mary!  Why not have your saviour blast them away.  You know how many cheers you would have gotten for that?  The society that the Sandins live in is a dog eat dog world... at least for those frightful 12 hours.  You know the kind of message you could have sent to anyone else that tried to attack your family?  You have just released your neighbors back to their homes.... back to lick thier wounds... back to plot a revenge.  Bad move, Mary.  It just feels to me that the Sandins do not belong in the world that they were placed and because of that, their actions seem off.  Their reasoning is not in line with what thier society expects and, in the words of my 3 year old son, "dat dont make sense."  This is why I feel that the execution of this film could have been better.  Let me elaborate.
The family is worried and James is sitting there... probably thinking of a sandwich.  *sigh*
Imagine the same setting, the same family, the same idea.  The only difference?  The family thinks and reacts like they've lived through many Purges.  The plot could have stayed the same, but the effectiveness of it could have been amplified.  Take the scene where the family discovers that Charlie let the man in.  In the film, Charlie gets off free and easy.  His family doesn't scold him, they don't explain to him what his actions have done.  They all just calmly grab some guns and hunt the man down.  Now imagine a revamped scene where the severity of the situation was amplified.  A stronger sense of urgency and tension would have become a character of it's own in the film.  Tense moments of uncertainty would have been WAY more effective with that scene altered.  As it stands, the film just wasn't dark enough and what I mean by that is that the atmosphere was not set up properly from the begining.  I constantly placed myself in the situation of James Sandin while watchign the film and believe me, there would have been a lot of four letter words uttered during some of the more stressful and physically demanding moments.  James?  I swear the dude must have been on some happy pills because he just didn't exude that tension or anger.  It's almost as if he called upon his inner Kristen Stewart and was just going through the motions.  I was going to say that the film suffered from a PG 13 rating and that may be why some of the scenes were scaled back but the film is actually rated R.  If the R rating was there, the film should have intensified some of the scenes.  The movie definitely felt more PG 13 than R and it hurt the film.

I'm still trying to figure out why you're in this film, Zooey.
And have you noticed that this is a family of 4 and I practically didn't mention Zooey at all?  Yeah, I felt like her character was just thrown in because the "typical American family" has 4 members.  Sorry, but Zooey didn't add anything to the story.

Awesome idea, poorly executed.  That's my verdict for The Purge.  I was hoping for more, but it could be that I've watched way to many movies that my expectations are high.  My two oldest kids (12 &14) enjoyed it.  They're young, though... they don't know what's good for them yet.  lol  Anyways, it's worth checking out.  It's not great, but it's not horrible either.  The Purge just leaves me with much to be desired and in the end, that is no way to leave your audience.  So have you guys watched The Purge yet?  What did you think of it?  Later!

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