In 2022, the United States is “a nation reborn” — crime is at an all-time low because the government has instituted the Purge, an annual 12-hour period during which all crime is legal and emergency services are suspended.
It’s an intriguing concept for a film, and it might explain why The Purge had such a successful opening weekend. But why the 75% drop-off? Could it be because the movie is so stupid it’s offensive? Let’s break down all of the nonsense.
1. It only takes place nine years in the future.
If you’re going to make a movie about a society that’s drastically different from our own, either place it at an unspecified time in the future or give us more than a decade to work with. The Purge itself doesn’t even begin in 2022 — it’s implied that it’s been going on for some time, given that Ethan Hawke’s character James makes a living selling Purge-related home security, and everyone is completely used to the idea of legalized yearly violence. So, um, when exactly after 2013 did the U.S. get a complete overhaul?
2. Crime is at an all-time low and unemployment has been reduced to 1 percent, with no real explanation.
Would the Purge actually reduce crime? Only a fraction of violent crime is premeditated — and in those cases, sure, a husband who wanted to off his wife might wait until the night that he could do so legally. But what about crimes of passion? People are still greedy and awful and occasionally sociopaths. It’s ludicrous to suggest that anyone seriously interested in murder, robbery, or rape would wait until the one government-sanctioned night to get on with it. If anything, the Purge would increase violence by giving otherwise law-abiding citizens the legal recourse to give in to their darkest impulses once a year.
3. And people are just supposed to go back to their normal lives. That would NEVER HAPPEN.
I’m sorry, but no. If someone kills your loved one, you’d want retribution. If your neighbor broke into your home and tried to kill your children, there’s no way you wouldn’t immediately want to move. It’s just silly to imply that people can Purge and then go on about their business as though nothing has changed. And while the film is critical of this notion, the implication is still that it’s basically how things work. Otherwise, there would also be a rash of violent crime following the Purge, and it wouldn’t be considered a success.
4. A huge percentage of people roam the streets looking for strangers or enemies to kill instead of cowering in a safe space.
It just isn’t believable. Humans might be violent by nature, but they’re also pretty keen on self-preservation. How would a person with no combat training feel comfortable entering a lawless warzone? Yes, someone might feel an urge to kill her boss, but he or she would be taking an incredible personal safety risk. And again, this is the problem with the film’s timeline: It would take longer than a few years for everyone to suddenly be comfortable wandering out into a world with no emergency services and bloodthirsty gangs.
5. Once the Purge starts, everyone suddenly turns into an emotionless killer.
OK, maybe if you told people they could kill anyone they hated and get away with it, they’d do it. But almost everyone — sociopaths excluded, of course — would feel something. Regret, guilt, and compassion are all standard human emotions. There’s no way a normal, well-balanced individual can go out and slaughter without issue. Not to mention the fact that the bad guys in the film — masked prep school kids — giggle and skip and generally behave like slasher villains. If they’re that crazy, they would be equally nuts and dangerous year-round.
6. The villains speak in heavy-handed metaphors that don’t resemble human speech.
This is just bad writing. The villains in the movie are so two-dimensional that it’s actually funny: they self-identify as good rich kids who are out to kill poor homeless people, because the poor only exist for their amusement. Am I willing to believe some truly horrible people would subscribe to this perspective? Sure. Would anyone actually articulate it that directly? No! A crazed killer doesn’t show up on your doorstep spewing his diatribe on class relations. For one thing, he’s just not that self-aware.
7. The Purge seems to exist as a way for the haves to control the have nots, but everyone just goes along with it.
If you were living on the street with the knowledge that once a year, rich people would emerge from their houses to kill you, wouldn’t you maybe do something about that? Like, I don’t know, kill some rich people before they have the chance to kill you? There’s no reason why a homeless person — homeless people being the target of a high percentage of Purge murders, evidently — would just wait around for the annual onslaught of violence. What does he have to lose? It just seems like, after a few years of the Purge, the most shit-upon members of society would realize, “Hey, this system sucks,” and preemptively fight back.
8. None of this matters, anyway, because it’s just another home invasion thriller.
If you’ve seen Funny Games or The Strangers or either of the foreign films they were remakes of, you’ve seen The Purge. The premise of this particular movie is unique, but since all the action is confined to a house and it’s about malevolent forces trying to get in to kill everyone, it’s EXACTLY THE SAME AS THE OTHERS. Even the villains’ masks are borrowed. And given how many unanswered questions the unique twist leaves us with, maybe it would have been better to just do a straight horror movie. That way The Purge would just be derivative, and not complete nonsense.