Welcome to the United States in the year 2022. We have new “Founding Fathers” here in the good ole USA and they have almost completely solved the issue of crime. 364.5 days of the year that is. But during that 12 hour period that takes place in March, The Purge takes place and it’s anything goes, anywhere, with only one limitation. Government officials are exempted and safe from harm.
For the affluent, no problem. They lock themselves in behind elaborate security systems. That’s even more necessary than one might think because during the 12 hours of the Purge, police and other emergency responders don’t answer the phone. They don’t respond to anything. They’re probably hunkered down in their secure buildings, or perhaps they are out hunting. Because that’s what some people like to do. They hunt. Often it’s the affluent who want to kill the poor because “they don’t contribute to society”.
The need for those security systems has made life sweet for the Sandin family. “James” (Ethan Hawke) sells security systems and he has done quite well at it. So much so, that he and his wife “Mary” (Lena Headey) have been able to build on a large addition to their home. This hasn’t gone over well with his neighbors, all of whom bought their own security systems from him. Their son “Charlie” (Max Burkholder) is an introvert who delights in sneaking up on his mother with his robot. Daughter “Zoey” (Adelaide Kane) is seeing an older boy and it is driving her father crazy. “Henry” (Tony Oiler) has his own plans for the night of the Purge and they do not involve staying home.
When Henry confronts Mr. Sandin, things go badly. They get much worse when Charlie sees “Bloody Stranger” (Hodge) outside on the monitors. He’s bleeding and crying out for help. No one is responding. Charlie wants to help and so he opens the security door long enough to sneak the stranger into the house.
But the group of people who were hunting him are determined to get the stranger. He resisted their attempt to purge him and killed one of them before getting away. They learn that he is hiding in the Sandin home and their leader, “Polite Stranger” (Wakefield) knocks on the door. He lets the Sandins know that if they don’t send his target outside, when ‘resources’ apply, he and his band will enter the house and purge everyone.
The basic concept of a society that is divided into haves and have-nots, where one night a year of unbelievable murder and mayhem results in another year of freedom from crime is intriguing. Unfortunately this promising beginning disappears into a cacophony of limited performances, clichés and unoriginal violence. A few of the action sequences are adequate and the one thing going for The Purge is that it does manage to evoke a nice level of tension. It isn’t awful, but it isn’t all that good either.