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Purge, The


Stars: Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey, Adelaide Kane, Max Burkholder, Edwin Hodge, Tony Oller, Rhys Wakefield, John Weselcouch, David Basila, Tisha French, Dana Bunch

Director: James DeMonaco

If double bills still existed, then this undistinguished by-numbers home invasion shocker would be destined to hang around on the lower half of the bill. As it is these days its natural fate would likely be on DVD with viewers’ fingers hovering hopefully above the fast-forward button for much of its mercifully short – but not short enough – running time.

The year is 2022 and, with violence and crime allegedly eradicated, the US government has created ‘The Purge’ – an annual 12-hour period in which all and any crime is sanctioned and during which time the law and hospitals will not go to the aid of anyone. Punishment for all crimes committed during ‘The Purge’ is suspended.

Unfortunately, after established the homicidal equivalent of Halloween, Staten Island, New York director James DeMonaco (writer of The Negotiator and Assault on Precinct 13) settles for as many genre clichés as he can jam into his screenplay.

Ethan Hawke, who makes his living selling expensive security systems designed to protect the better off from the ravages of ‘The Purge’, his wife Lena Headey and their kids, 14-year-old Max Burkholder and seething-with-hormones 16-year-old daughter Adelaide Kane settle in to survive the night of living hell by barricading themselves in their sanitized Spielberg-style suburban-gated community.

Unfortunately – and utterly predictably – the best-laid plans lay a dangerous egg, catalysed by Kane and her boyfriend, along with Burkholder allowing a potential street victim to take refuge in the house…

When, as the night descends into fear and violence, Hawke states "It's not built for worse case scenarios", the line (spoken apropos his home's apparently foolproof security system) could well be an appropriate review of the film itself.

It’s hard to see why Hawke (whose career as a star appears to be sinking slowly into the West) and Headey would have bothered with so patently a low-budget exploitation shocker. The Purge starts off with clever enough ‘reality’ footage of assorted nastiness on the streets but then settles for well-used and obvious tropes of suspense and violence that have nothing new to offer - except 85 minutes of film that seems much, much longer.

Alan Frank

USA 2013. UK Distributor: Universal. Colour.
85 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 2, Violence/Horror 3, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 31 May 2013