Following in the footsteps of movies like "Straw Dogs" and "The Strangers," "The
Purge" chronicles a family coming to terms with its own animalistic nature in a hypothetical future where the government legalizes all crime — including murder — for one 12-hour period annually. Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey star as wealthy parents trying to protect themselves and their children when masked intruders break into their home to kill a fugitive to whom they offer asylum.
The scenario has a ripped-from-the-headlines sort of energy, and, at the same time, it's a classic foundation for drama: What would you do to protect your family if it was threatened? But what do critics think of the thriller? Is it an astute commentary on America's predisposition for violence or an exploitative celebration of brutality? MTV News rounded up some opinions from the Web's top voices to give viewers a glimpse at what they might see — when they're not covering their eyes, that is — when they go see "The Purge" this weekend.
How Well Does It Set Up Its Core Concept?
"[James] DeMonaco, who wrote another Hawke siege movie, 2005's 'Assault on Precinct 13,' loads his satire with more political baggage than it can bear. And it dissolves into a typical home-invasion thriller whose big ideas about race, class, and social violence get trumped by its desire to hit genre beats. 'The Purge' clearly has a lot on its mind, but it never really manages to express it." — Chris Nashawaty, Entertainment Weekly
Does It Follow Through On Any Interesting Ideas?
"If this almost incoherently shot film is never insulting as social commentary, it's because DeMonaco is so obviously insincere about the race and class cards he halfheartedly plants and calculatingly plays throughout; the audience never believes that the horrors of this night will lead to a reawakening of the national consciousness. In the end, he's more interested in spooking audiences, though he flounders even at that." — Ed Gonzales, Slant
How Intense Is The Film's Suspense?
"The movie does have its fleeting instances, especially in the second half, where DeMonaco's premise suggests the sort of nightmare that would be unleashed if humanity was granted permission to kill with impunity, letting loose society's ugliest, basest tendencies. And he and cinematographer Jacques Jouffret manage to stage the terse showdown scenes between the family and the fearsome, mask-wearing mob inside the home with a little of the claustrophobic anxiety one usually associates with a 'Night Of The Living Dead.' " — Tim Grierson, Screen Daily
What About The Characters?
"The violence in 'The Purge' is fine, but almost all of it happens to characters I don't care about or don't find particularly menacing.
It's the kind of movie where the female home invaders skip through the halls of the house wearing diaphonous white dresses because that's what you do in a home invasion movie, you act all weird all the time." — Devin Faraci, Badass Digest
Ultimately, How Much Does The Film Have To Say?
"Like many horror movies, DeMonaco's film first challenges violence only to succumb to the allure of fetishizing it for audience cheers.
There's gold in the premise of 'The Purge' and its dismissal of subtlety. But like the residents of its world, when given the opportunity, it drops restraint and goes for blood." — Matt Patches, Film.com