By Chris Kim
Imagine a world where crime and unemployment are nonexistent because, for one night a year, all criminal activity is legal. Emergency services are suspended for this 12-hour period so that the whole country can regulate itself without fear of punishment. Take that premise, set it up as a home invasion thriller with stars Ethan Hawke and "Game of Thrones" star Lena Headey as a loving couple under attack, and you have "The Purge." (Think "Battle Royale" meets "Panic Room.")
Ethan Hawke plays James Sandin, a man who has made a small fortune selling home safety systems to residents in his gated, upper-class community. The story kicks off when their young son, Charlie, saves a black homeless man from a group of armed and masked intruders wearing prep school uniforms. The group descends on the house, demanding the Sandins return the man they are rightfully allowed to hunt or risk being hunted themselves. While we won't spoil the film, the film deals with both issues of class and race while also showcasing violent scenes involving young children.
"I want the movie to speak for itself," star Ethan Hawke told MTV News about the new and dangerous world the film is set in. "What I think the movie does that's actually really interesting is not tell you how to think. You can just watch it and see what you think."
The idea that state sanctioned violence is the best way to regulate a population is also a theme that Hawke found intriguing. "We do live in a culture with a strange obsession to violence," he said. "This movie's relationship to violence is strange. It's both anti-violent and extremely violent which the country is in a strange way with this obsession with guns."
And if the idea of a group of armed white men hunting down an unarmed black man or young children handling deadly weapons sounds unsettlingly familiar, it was also something that Ethan Hawke had trouble watching without being reminded of recent events. "It's difficult for me to watch this movie and not think about Sandy Hook or Trayvon Martin, or think about our whole relationship to class, race, economics, how they play into each other and yet it's all done in the frame work of this terrifying movie," he explained.
"The Purge" continues a tradition of great genre movies talking about important social issues but packaged in the form of mainstream movie entertainment. "That for me is what a genre movie is supposed to be. 'Sinister' is about how ambition destroys the individual and can destroy your family [when] people put their own success over," he said about his earlier horror film. "That's what I'm hunting for in good genre films."