THE PURGE

purgeThe Purge (June 24th, Bow Tie Cinemas)
“The Purge “ drops us into the world of 2022, in an America where “our new founding fathers,” have seemingly single-handedly turned America again into a booming, thriving economy with one single action: the Purge…that is, the legalization, for twelve hours, of all crime (excluding restricted government officials—a nice touch).

The idea really only seems so ultimately stupid because the filmmakers set the action in a world that is so like ours, it presumably is our in 9 years (and considering the opening sequence shows Purge footage time-coded 2019, even less). Now sure, I will buy that humans are only one minute evolutionary step above the beasts, and that blood lust and carnage are irrevocably in our DNA and cause us much chagrin—but that is one part of our nature. And in this society, there is Morality and consciousness; whether real in a person, or simply good form programmed into a politico-robot to get votes—and I think we all would agree that it would be a stretch that we basically made everything legal for a night. Hell, we make it illegal for a person to not buckle down in his car or drink too much sugar, so this seems like a pretty big jump.

The film is generally well-made and Ethan Hawke is weird, yet effective. And Lena Hedly as the wife seems so fragile and permeable, warming even the coldest heart towards her, but also perhaps an effective performance of what The Purge really does to a person, even as citizens praise it and put out their blue flowers in support of it.

So it all really comes down to the silly conceit. But then there are numerous other things that don’t ring true. The Purgers/invaders into the family home for instance. They trot around dressed in spooky masks seen only in cinema, with long machetes, giggling and making noise. A female Purger even gets carted around on another’s back.

But wait? These are mostly Ivy League kids, out to take advantage of this black hole of legality during this day, and destroy the weak like the beasts they are. Okay. But they are walking down the hallway of a stranger’s house. A stranger with a gun that has killed a friend of theirs. Theirs isn’t a care-free stroll. They aren’t hunters. They aren’t even weekend warriers. They are the jet set crew that get unsettled when their mocha isn’t made right. How can they laugh when they might turn a corner and get blasted. They aren’t Michael Myers. They are Patrick Bateman brought to life.

Which brings me to another issue. Now, in order for you to follow me, let me dish out some quick synopty (not a word, but should be). So, it is the night of The Purge and the Hawke family is locking down for the evening. Young Hawke doesn’t much dig the Purge. He is an ideal youth. While watching the security cameras, he sees a young man, injured and screaming for help. “They are going to kill me!” he cries. A lot of conflict runs through the boy’s face. Inevitably, he presses a big green button, which unlocks the house, and the man slides in.

Now, who is this man? Well, let us just say for now that he is the subject of prey for a group of rich “very well-educated” Purgers. This group learns that the young man is hiding out in the Hawke home. So they come a-knocking and say let him out or they will blow down the door and kill them all.

Follow that? Ok…so, we have discussed that most, if not all of these folks are advantageous. Now, as the leader says to Hawke, “What is he worth to you? Is his life worth yours and your family?” But, what is it worth to him? Can’t he find another easy target and cut him up? They supply the motive as that this young man “fought back” and took out one of their own. I do not believe that this is a matter of revenge for the friend, but maybe revenge for the wounded ego? The have-not bum young man should not be able, or allowed to hurt him. His is to lose. And the Ivy League Purgers is to win.

Now there are certain people you are fairly certain are not going to die all too quick. I mean, the majority of the Hawke family has to at least survive to the final act, correct? Correct. So after a number of sequences where one of the family is tackled to the ground and just about to be shot/stabbed/eviscerated only to have blood splattered all over them as their attacker has been shot in the back by an ally arriving just in time, your mind starts to wander.

First you wonder if the screenwriter has a mind. I mean, even he must know that by the sixth time somebody bad gets their brains blown out all over somebody they were about to kill, because they first had to give a little speech and allot enough time for somebody to come save the day–that this is getting kind of stale. I mean, sure we don’t want all the good guys dead, but this guy made a bucket of money to write this. Couldn’t he have been a bit cleverer?

You also think of missed opportunities. As people are getting thrown around and heads are getting bashed into pinball machines and pool tables are being blown to bits, you wonder how Insurance works in this new America. You know Big Business Insurance would cover their asses in this society. Would you have to apply for separate Purge Insurance? Would a question on an application inquire: “Have you or do you plan to participate in the Annual Purge?”

I don’t know where your mind will go after that. But mine went to the concept of this movie. Why this dude wrote it at all. And I was reminded by something the Uber-bad Leader guy said to Ethan Hawke, “Don’t keep him away from us! This is his purpose!” or something like that, basically something up that the have-nots are there for the haves to, in this case, destroy and dismember. And they are not expected to fight back.

There are scenes where Ethan Hawke and his wife are working to cater towards the Ivy League miscreant, all blonde hair and crazy eyes, asking for his toy back. They capture the young man in their house, tie him up, and are about to deliver him when their children look at them. What are you doing, they ask. “Nothing will ever be alright again.” These children are the idealists. Ethan Hawke would say that they just don’t get it. This is how it is. This is how it works.

Except how it works is you tie up a perfectly innocent wounded young man, decked even in dog tags so you can allude he is one of the many used up by our country overseas and then tossed aside, and you feed him to the lions…or the Wall Street Bull at least.

That’s pretty disgusting, right? That is pretty clearly wrong.

Except…how far away is that from what we are doing? The rich take from the poor. The haves ensure the have-nots will never have enough to even attempt to have. Laws are made and enforced in order to segregate and disassociate. The rich, inevitably feed off the poor. Stomp on them. Ignore them. Seek them out only as a tool for their lifestyles.

Because they do need them.

But show a guy in a suit and a tie send a message on his blackberry (no! I’m sorry, Iphone is what’s cool now right?) And that is not clearly wrong. That man is doing his job, what he has to do.

When a businessman does not sign a document, he is doing his job. After all, he didn’t get to where he is in life without making tough calls.

And here is Ethan Hawke, with a crazy psycho outside his door, promising to kill his ENTIRE family if he doesn’t deliver the young man so that they will CERTAINLY kill him. That seems like a tough call, too.

But, we all seem sort of disgusted if he leads that young man to the slaughter, don’t we?

The more I think about it, the more clearly it is saying something like this. The Ivy League suit, the comments about “education” and “allocation of wealth;” the discussions of the Purge really being a financial cleanser rather than a curbing measure to a carnal populous. This certainly gives one a lot to think about. It can certainly lead one to a decent discussion about what they are allowing to happen versus what they would have done with that young man all tied up. Would they have let him be murdered? If not, why are we behaving complicit in this societal structure? What, in the endgame, is the difference?

But it mucks it all up. With talk of, “This is our right as Americans,” it goes so far as to be hokey, and by grounding it in a world we know, the conceit is so out of left field, it is less likely we can get the allegorical nature even though I do believe it’s tie-in with this world is to help us get said message.

Then again, there were also those in the audience that groaned when Mrs. Hawke said, “Look at us! What have we become?” She doesn’t get it. He’s just doing what he has to do. Maybe we’re already too lost. Maybe the movie has come too late. Maybe, 2022 really is too far off.

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