The James DeMonaco thriller about a night with no rules should be a no go
"The Purge" takes place in 2022, just nine years from now. But if you can't wait that long for the (surefire) real thing – the movie is now playing in theaters nationwide.
The thriller, written and directed by James DeMonaco, has an interesting premise: For one day a year, over a 12 hour period, citizens get to let out their carnal instincts and frustration in a society where all bets are off and all crime is legal. Watch your back, America.
So is it any good? Here's what some of the critics are saying:
TheWrap critic Leah Rozen says the movie is "a standard issue home-invasion movie drizzled with a thin glaze of sensationalism thanks to a provocative setup. The movie's front cover may be enticing, but the contents prove all too familiar." Rozen also thinks it's a classic case of "same old same old."
The Washington Post gives it two stars out of four. Critic Michael O'Sullivan calls "The Purge" a "stock home-invasion thriller made moderately more interesting by a thin veneer of pop psychology." He points out that the setup – the government allowing us one free night where anything goes – doesn't actually make much sense.
Simon Abrams of the Chicago Sun-Times offers the James DeMonaco film just one-and-a-half stars. He felt no connection with the characters, saying "you don't know anyone in the film well enough to care one way or another." Abrams wasn't any higher on the directing, pointing out that "the camera jiggled so much during the violence that you only got teasing, migraine-inducing impressions of the act."
But wait — we found somebody that didn't hate it! Tirdad Derakhshani of the Philadelphia Inquirer called the film "genuinely tense" and "effective." He gave "The Purge" two-and-a-half stars, saying "In its own clumsy, exaggerated way, "The Purge" takes a strong stand against our cultural obsession with violence and our tendency to conflate justice with vengeance."
Not everyone was that impressed by the societal implications. Manohla Dargis of the New York Times calls DeMonaco's message "unsubtle," which "just gets louder and louder, cruder and cruder." She says that is "too bad because Mr. DeMonaco knows how to set a stage." If none of that makes senss…she didn't quite like it.
The Newark Star-Ledger's Stephen Whitty likes the idea for the movie, but says "'The Purge’ bungles it." He called the concept "borrowed (and botched.)" Whitty says Ethan Hawke is "fine" as the dad. When that is the best praise in your review, you give it one-and-a-half stars, as he did.
What say you, Robert Abele of the Los Angeles Times? Oh, he hated it too. Abele calls the film "dreary exploitation slog." Ouch. He says "it's almost astonishing how little genuine tension exists in the ensuing siege scenario," calling "The Purge," "an emptying experience indeed."