I've heard a lot of good things about this movie, but honestly I was expecting more. When the Blumhouse Productions logo appeared in the intro I started questioning if it was the kind of movie I expected it to be, and I was right, it wasn't. It wasn't action, it was horror. Or, well... it was like a hybrid. I do love Blumhouse Productions though, so seeing their logo was a moment of both exhilaration and wait a minute...
The plot idea is that, in a future America, there is a twelve hour period every year when all crimes are legal. They introduce this well in the first scenes of the movie, with realistic-looking surveillance camera footage of people being shot, stabbed, and bashed around as professors, government officials and other important people talk about all the good 'The Purge' is doing - how crime rates have plummeted, and how good it is that these violent urges aren't suppressed. It's human nature. In the long run it's a stepping stone to a safer and more peaceful society!
It's a genius, scary and violent concept, and though I was expecting more of a rampage I'm glad they focused on a single family, and the ethical aspects of such a tradition, taking up social and biological aspects but also social injustice in that it's a day on which the rich are shielded, and the poor at war. It's not as philosophical as it's about the hopelessness a rich upper class family faces when they are unexpectedly brought into the game, but as they bring up their desperation they build a bigger picture as well.
The tables have turned. Suddenly these rich folks are face to face with a dark side of themselves they never expected to meet... though even in the darkest moments they stick together. They're a true family, in the end.
I thought there'd be a lot more violence, and a lot more people, but they isolate the event and focus on a single house, and considering you really feel for the characters like this it's probably the best way they could have done it. The black man too: though you never do get to know who he is, if he's good or bad; not even his name. He's the mysterious hero, and the figurehead of injustice, but at the same time he's the cause of it all. When the husband is dead, yet the wife thanks him for saving their lives, and he walks away... I wonder what he's thinking, I wonder who he really is, and I wonder if we'll learn more about him in the sequels.
The execution of the movie wasn't flawless. There is stereotype, badly explained creepy toys that seem included just to seem creepy, knife wounds that seem all too easily achieved, and moments you expect that it feels like you weren't supposed to, but the idea is a biggest game-changer, and the tension builds up well. The violence is savage. The desperation feels real. The masks are the icing. Eye zing. The two guys batting down paintings on the walls are a crescendo, and as real as it seems, and as convincingly as the topic is brought up, you wonder if, considering our current state of the world, this might actually become a reality some day?
The thought seems absurd, but that it's there at all lends it some level of credibility, and that's the scariest part.
rated 4/5: fo shizzle