Dark sci-fi thriller set in a future where all crime is legal one night every year
New Labour might have led with their slogan 'tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime', but thankfully they didn't go as far as a state sanctioned night of murder, death, violence and rape. The Purge is set in America, 2022, where for one night a year all crime is legal. The theory being that it releases the pressure of pent up aggression, a mass catharsis that keeps crime rates low the rest of the year.
Following the Sandin family (Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey take the role of the parents) as they prepare for lockdown, it's their matter-of-fact acceptance of what is to come that gives proceedings a creepy, unsettling edge. But as with all best laid plans things start to fall apart after their son (Max Burkholder) attempts to give shelter to homeless man (Edwin Hodge) being pursued by a gang of upper class killers.
The Purge is actually quite hard to categorise it's a dark sci-fi/crime movie but in tone it's more similar to horror films such as The Strangers, The Collector or Hostel (not surprising when you realise it comes from Blumhouse Productions, the company behind the Paranormal Activity movies, Insidious and Sinister). It's a great set up which touches on ideas of how we deal with crime, class and the treatment of the poor, sick and needy, as the id runs free and society gives into its basest urges. However the final half turns into a typical home invasion thriller, though it's an interesting twist to have the blood thirsty mob made up of erudite privileged teens. There are some great ideas at play but it doesn't quite hang together, sometimes sacrificing logic for shock value, while the flip into action mode for the final act is slightly incongruous but mirrors the audiences own desire for release, revenge and bloodshed.