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In a crime-ridden future when overtaxed cops let murder and other crimes rule the streets one night a year, someone's knocking at James Sandin's door. Tormented by an unknown thrill-killer, Sandin makes a desperate stand to save his wife and family.
For more about The Purge and the The Purge Blu-ray release, see the The Purge Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on October 7, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Lena Headey, Ethan Hawke, Max Burkholder, Edwin Hodge, Rhys Wakefield, Tony Oller
Director: James DeMonaco
» See full cast & crew
The Purge Blu-ray Review
Dead on arrival...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, October 7, 2013
The Purge is yet another underdeveloped, overwrought high-concept thriller with bigger ideas and aspirations than it knows what to do with. Writer/director James DeMonaco presents us with a false future utopia in which the citizens of the United States are given one night every year to exorcise their demons without fear of consequence or criminal prosecution; a "purge" meant to cleanse the cultural soul of 364 days of pent up hate, rage and aggression. Rape, murder, mutilation... all completely legal for twelve unhinged hours before the minutia of civilized life resumes and the authorities arrive to tote away the bodies, wipe away the blood, pat the country's "patriots" on the back, and honor those who "sacrificed" themselves for the greater good. We're told crime has been virtually eliminated -- never mind the fact that the overwhelming majority of murders today are impulsive acts or crimes of passion -- and we're even asked to accept that the entire country has fallen in line with the New Founding Fathers' vision of moral reorientation. And in which far-off nightmare of a year does all this occur? 2070? 2150? 2230? Don't be silly. 2022. Let that sink in. Less than nine years in the future. And that's just the first of many, many problems with The Purge, an otherwise intense and suspenseful home invasion thriller that attempts to accomplish too much with too little, take shots at far too many targets in one pass, and engage in densely packed social and political commentary that's obvious, messy and convoluted.
Don't come to The Purge expecting much context. DeMonaco provides as little information as possible about America circa 2022, and even less about the country's New Founding Fathers, the development of the annual Purge, or the annual event's acceptance as the new national norm. (Hot screenwriting tip #137: The easiest way to circumvent plot holes? Less plot!) Instead, we only learn about the Purge from newscasts, television pundits, and intentionally vague exposition, none of which addresses how, nine years from now, your neighbor will turn into The Joker for a night and gleefully slaughter you and your young children because he's jealous of the new addition you tacked onto your house. Yet that's what we're asked to accept here -- wholesale -- without being given much of anything that might sell the reality of DeMonaco's New America. Or, at the opposite extreme, be presented with such a surreal future dystopia (think Kubrick's Clockwork Orange) that we're willing to dismiss realism and focus on the method and message of the film's subtext. And while that may sound like the ramblings of someone irritated with an imprecise premise (let's call it a plot chasm), it's actually the dissatisfaction of someone who willingly accepted DeMonaco's terms and was cheated out of what he was promised: relevance, timeliness and genre-veiled insight into modern class warfare.
Our window into the future? James Sandin (Ethan Hawke), a wealthy suburbanite who's made his fortune selling advanced home security systems to the rich; turning homes like his into nearly impenetrable fortresses capable of preventing Purgers from gaining entry. As the Purge sirens sound, James, his wife Mary (Lena Headey) and their two children, tech-wiz goth Charlie (Max Burkholder) and lovestruck teen Zoey (Adelaide Kane), hunker down for a safe, comfortable evening free from the dangers of the outside world. However, the Sandins are put to the test when a homeless man (Edwin Hodge), injured and bleeding, runs down their street begging for help. James and Mary have no interest in offering sanctuary. Zoey is too busy with her boyfriend, Henry (Tony Oller), who's hidden away in her bedroom. But Charlie... Charlie takes pity on the man, opens the main gate, and lets him in, much to his father's dismay. Worse, the man is soon tracked to the Sandins' house by a gang of well-to-do masked maniacs led by a particularly fiendish young man (Rhys Wakefield, who's so perfectly cast and so perfectly creepy that he's my honest to God vote for the next major villain in a Batman film). Suddenly it's kill or be killed as James is presented with a choice: hand over the nameless stranger or watch as his security system is breached and his entire family is butchered before his eyes.
The Purge teeters on the edge of improbable before plunging headlong into implausible. Hawke inexplicably tries on his best Ward Cleaver ("Honey, I'm home! What a day!"), with a touch of Father Knows Best, but suddenly turns into Straw Dogs' David Sumner, and really Die Hard's John McClaine, whenever someone takes a shot at him, leaps through a window, or attacks with an uzi or ax. Elsewhere, Headey responds with a more fully realized performance, but only becomes remotely interesting in the closing minutes, when the Sandin home invasion becomes extra home invasion-y. It doesn't help that for all of DeMonaco's grand dystopian schemes and stabs at class commentary, the film is a small-scale genre pic, and a rather routine, conventional one at that. The underlying sermon is too on the nose (rich people dehumanize poor people), James' sudden kung-fu action grip immediately renders Hawke's everyday dad shtick a genre trope, and the number of bodies carted out of the Sandins' house by film's end is just one more piece of evidence that DeMonaco's script is as contrived as it is nonsensical. (Don't start asking questions when the credits roll or the entire setup, story and third-act twistiness will unravel.)
Ironically, The Purge is a decent home invasion horror pic, and it's in those moments -- with masked men threatening to breach the Sandin security system, James defending his home and family, Mary fighting for her children's lives, and Wakefield's monster cooly stalking from shadow to shadow -- that it sorta works; in part because the Sandins shut up and stop spouting exposition and time-padding dialogue, but mainly because the film, even if only for the briefest of scenes, dispenses with its shallow headiness and stages a tense, at-times thought-provoking series of moral dilemmas.
The Purge Blu-ray, Video Quality
Daylight is scarce in The Purge. Between nightfall, the Sandins' severed power, night vision cams, outdoor security feeds and cinematographer Jacques Jouffret's impenetrable shadows, the film is as dark as its horrors are grisly. Fortunately, Universal's 1080p/AVC-encoded video presentation is both proficient and faithful to Jouffret and Demonaco's every intention. Color is in short supply, with deathly blues, neutral tones and sinister blacks dominating the palette, and yet skintones are striking, reds ooze convincingly and contrast is consistently satisfying. Detail is excellent too -- surprisingly so actually -- with revealing closeups, razor sharp edge definition and well-resolved textures. Of course, security monitors, Charlie's toy-mounted camera and other low-fi sources make for spotty clarity at times, but none of it proves distracting. If anything, it enhances the atmosphere of the film. Artifacting, banding and aliasing are nowhere to be found as well, and intermittent (and presumably inherent) crush and noise spikes are the only eyesores of note. It's safe to say The Purge couldn't look much better.
The Purge Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Universal's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track delivers the genre goods, taking full advantage of each channel to create the sort of horror soundscape that lures you in -- closer and closer -- before lunging for the kill. Voices boast an air of grounded, convincing realism without sacrificing intelligibility. Prioritization is dead on from start to finish, carefully balancing the atmospheric with the chaotic without incident. LFE output is downright vicious too, latching onto the film's ultraviolence, shotgun blasts and fist fights and lending power and presence to any and every low-end effect. The rear speakers, meanwhile, almost delight in directional devilry, forging an immerssive, all too eerie soundfield that employs silence as well as it does more aggressive assaults on the senses. It's only a shame such a riveting experience isn't paired with an equally riveting thriller.
The Purge Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The only extra available is "Surviving the Night: The Making of The Purge" (HD, 9 minutes), an informative-for-its-length behind-the-scenes featurette that focuses on the genesis of the story and the film's themes, characters, commentary and, much too briefly, DeMonaco's New American landscape.
The Purge Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The Purge paints with broad strokes and big ideas but remains too small, too implausible, too obvious and too narrow in its focus to do much good. It even fails as a home invasion pic, which is saying something since its genre bits are its best. Thankfully, Universal's Blu-ray release at least makes the most of the film's high definition presentation. Though short on supplements, the disc boasts terrific video and pulse-pounding audio, injecting some much-needed oomph into an otherwise scattershot horror film.
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The Purge Blu-ray, News and Updates
• The Purge: Anarchy - New Trailer - March 28, 2014
Universal Pictures has released a new trailer for director James DeMonaco's The Purge: Anarchy, starring Frank Grillo, Michael K. Williams, Zach Gilford, Kiele Sanchez, Zoe Borde and Nicholas Gonzalez. The sequel to The Purge (2013) is set to open in theaters across ...
• Universal Dates The Purge 2 - November 21, 2013
Universal Studios has officially announced that James DeMonaco's The Purge 2 will open in theaters across the United States on June 20, 2014. The film will be produced by Jason Blum and Sébastien K Lemercier from Blumhouse Productions and Michael Bay, Brad Fuller ...
• The Purge Blu-ray - August 6, 2013
Universal Studios has officially announced and detailed its upcoming combo pack edition of director James DeMonaco's thriller The Purge (2013), starring Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey, and Max Burkholder. The release will be available for purchase online and in stores ...
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