The much anticipated sequel to "The Binge"

One of the things that saddens me about the current crop of horror/sci fi/suspense movies is the lack of good "premise" films. You know the kind, where the movie obviously started with one guy going "wouldn't it be cool if..." and history is made. "The Twilight Zone" was the king of the premise story, and to date no one has managed to capture that crown.

"The Purge" feels like a "Twilight Zone" story, and I mean that in the best possible way. We start (quite literally) with a premise: In the year 2022 unemployment in America is at 1%, the crime rate is at it's lowest levels ever and everything is just really great and swell thanks to the "New Founding Fathers". All of this wonderment can be traced to the once act of the purge, where laws are ended for 12 hours to let the populous do whatever they want to do to get the demons out of them.

That, right there, is a premise. Now with the premise we must form a story.

Ethan Hawke plays James Saden, a salesman for the largest home security company in America (a land where we can presume the Dow Jones and the NASDAQ have been replaced by Brinks and Smith and Wesson) and a wonderful father two two brilliant children and husband to a beautiful  wife (played to perfection by the lovely and talented Lena Headey of Game of Thrones fame). Hopefully nothing will happen on this, the night of the purge, to make things go all sideways for this wonderful family.

So everything goes sideways for this wonderful family when the youngest (Max Burkholder from Parenthood) lets a terrified homeless man into their overly protected home. Fortunately for the homeless guy, he didn't stumble into Kevin Bacon's house, or he would have to watch Hollow Man for the remainder of the night, and Ethan Hawke can' even remember what movies he was in, nor when he turned into a Keven Bacon lookalike, so he should be OK. Unfortunately for the homeless guy, and the Saden family, a group of over privileged, sociopathic rich kids was in the process of hunting him down,and they would like to have him back.  Hence we have story, and conflict!

All silliness aside, "The Purge" is a very good "Twilight Zone" movie, not just in its story, but in its execution. The best "Zone" episodes left you wondering if you would have acted any different than the main characters if you had been there, and in "The Purge" you are left with the same feeling. If faced between thrown an innocent man out to a grisly death to save your family, or doing the right thing and risking it all, what would you do? Could you look another man in the eyes and tell him that his life is worth less than yours? Or your children? The prospects that the film grapples with are not simple ethics questions you will find easy to answer, but rather thoughts that will stay with you, late into the night. What would you do?

The acting in the film makes that question all the harder, as everyone plays their roll to the nines. Ethan Hawke plays the perfect father figure, and, believe it or not, is the weakest link in the film. Now that is not meant as an insult to Mr. Hawke, as he is fantastic in here, but rather a statement that everyone in this movie is fantastic +1. Lena Headly is fast becoming one of the most underrated actresses working today, a title that will, hopefully fade as she works on bigger and bigger projects, and plays the mother roll so convincingly that in more than one scene I felt genuine terror for her children, I am talking total immersion into the story. But the real star of the show is Rhys Wakefield, playing the leader of the murderous purge gang. He plays the role so perfectly, so terrifyingly, so wrongly, that all I could do was picture Anthony Perkens in "Psycho" (which might be, short of comparing his to Health Ledger in "The Dark Knight" the best compliment I can give a crazy person roll). Seriously, you will be scared of this guy. Period. He is Charles Manson mixed in with Alex Keaton.

And speaking of Alex Keaton, it should be noted that this movie wears its political leanings on its sleeve, Being, at it's core a science fiction film (it is in the future, in a alternate form of America, that is science fiction even without space ships), there is a very distinct message that is put across. In this case I think it is safe to assume that the maker of this film wont be attending any Tea Party Rallies any time soon, but I do feel the need to defend the film by saying that the message is rarely if ever heavy handed, and for the most part very subtle, much like an episode of the "Twilight Zone". Well, a good episode anyway, quite a few of them were as ham fisted as you can get.

"The Purge" takes a fairly simple concept and works it into a suspenseful, thought provoking thriller. The performances are all fantastic, even this child actor, which had the most potential to kill the project. I know it has been in theaters for a while, and thus the chance for catching it on the big screen is roughly nil, but if you can, make a point of it, and if you can't make sure to find it on DVD, it will be worth your time.

Rating - A
 





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