While MPs continue to be divided over the legalisation of drugs as means to reduce violent crime, James DeMonaco’s brutal thriller proposes a far more radical solution.
The Purge suggests that for one night every year, citizens can take up knives and guns to kill anyone they choose without legal reprisals.
A boss who withheld promotion can be terminated by an aggrieved employee; a jilted lover can break more than their old flame’s heart.
By allowing violence to spill on to the streets in such barbaric fashion, every man, woman and child can release their seething anger, allowing peace to reign for the remaining 364 days of the year.
It’s a neat premise and writer-director James DeMonaco cranks up tension with sadistic glee in his impressively lean second feature, which reunites him with leading man Ethan Hawke.
Thorny moral issues aren’t discussed in great depth as the plot whirs into action and once the first gun shot sounds, it’s only a matter of time before diplomacy is jettisoned in favour of blood-curdling screams and razor-sharp machetes.
The year is 2022.
Unemployment is a mere 1% in America and there is almost no crime.
Security salesman James Sandin (Hawke) returns home to his luxurious gated community and his wife Mary (Lena Headey) and children Zoey (Adelaide Kane) and Charlie (Max Burkholder).
It’s Purge night and at 7pm a siren will sound that grants anyone immunity from prosecution for killing for the next 12 hours.
As the deadline approaches, the Sandins activate their state-of-the-art defence system and relax for the evening, staring at CCTV cameras positioned around the area.
The calm is shattered when teenager Charlie temporarily raises the shutters to allow a homeless man (Edwin Hodge) to escape from a heavily armed mob.
That act of kindness has terrifying consequences when one member of the rabble (Rhys Wakefield) makes clear that they will break into the house and kill the Sandins unless the homeless man is delivered to them.
“You must deliver him to us so we may purge as we are entitled!” snarls the young man.
Seconds pass, the Sandins stare nervously at the TV screens, praying their defences will hold...
The Purge leaves a ball of nervous tension in your stomach during that opening hour as the Sandins attempt to maintain the facade of polite respectability as destruction reigns outside their home.
Once that chaos breaks in, Hawke and Headey must fight for their lives in a series of breathlessly orchestrated showdowns.
DeMonaco’s script begins to run out of steam when a pivotal character is unexpectedly sidelined but there’s a deliciously nasty sting in the tail, just when it seems the film is poised to draw breath.
:: SWEARING :: NO SEX :: VIOLENCE :: RATING: 6/10
Released: May 31 (UK & Ireland), 85 mins