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With: Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey, Max Burkholder, Adelaide Kane, Edwin Hodge, Rhys Wakefield, Tony Oller, Arija Bareikis
Written by: James DeMonaco
Directed by: James DeMonaco
MPAA Rating: R for strong disturbing violence and some language
Running Time: 85
Date: 06/07/2013

The Purge (2013)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Cringe and 'Purge'

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Writer/director James DeMonaco -- who previously wrote the screenplays for The Negotiator and the remake of Assault on Precinct 13 -- adds a new wrinkle to the "home invasion" subgenre with The Purge. In the year 2022, the U.S. government has established an annual 12-hour "purge," during which citizens can do whatever they want, legally, even murder.

James Sandin (Ethan Hawke) has made tons of money selling security systems to the wealthy. As the purge begins, he prepares to barricade himself inside with his wife Mary (Lena Headey) and kids, Zoey (Adelaide Kane) and Charlie (Max Burkholder). Unfortunately, Zoey's boyfriend has snuck in just before lockdown, and Charlie tries to help a homeless man by letting him in as well. These small events eventually lead to a terrifying standoff: James must decide whether to sacrifice one man to save himself and his family, or fight and face certain death.

DeMonaco's idea of the futuristic "purge" brings up many layers of ideas worth discussing. His movie is clever enough to begin asking these questions right away, and to make the audience implicit in the discourse. It's impossible to watch and not wonder, "What would I do?" "Is this right, or wrong?" Or worse, "What if it's a little of both?"

The movie isn't quite as clever at its story and character level. The typical cat-and-mouse chases around the house rely on characters never looking in the right place at the right time. It becomes clear that they are more important to the movie as representations than as sympathetic characters. Only Rhys Wakefield as a strangely polite, intelligent, grinning invader provides anything of human interest. Regardless, a movie this smart and ambitious isn't easy to dismiss.

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