In the future, America will have one night where virtually all crime is legal.  From 7 P.M. to 7 A.M., citizens can roam the streets or break into homes to do whatever violence they please.  The purpose is to give an outlet once a year for the hatred and violence that brews in the hearts and minds of most people, thereby pacifying the people for the rest of the year and lowering the crime rate and the cost of fighting crime.  High ranking, government officials are off the menu, though.  I know!  They just took the fun out of this whole thing!

Ethan Hawke stars in “The Purge” as a successful, security expert who sells “the haves” with anti-home invasion products — as for the “have nots,” well, they’re just s*#t out of luck during the 12 hour purge.   Hawke spends this year’s Purge in the safety of his home with his wife (played by Lena Headey) and bratty daughter and a son who may as well be a second daughter judging by his looks.  The son, by the way, is also piss poor in a fight.  Yeah, I know, he’s just a boy.  But damn it, he put the whole family’s life on the line and now that the s*@t’s hit the fan, girly-boy needs to man the f&#k up and fight harder than what you’ll see him do in the movie!  Plus I don’t like kids anyway, so hell yeah, I’m going to be a tough critic on the little snot factory.  Okay, I’m getting ahead of myself here.  Let me back up.

So, Hawke and family are all set to spend a quiet night at home and wait out the Purge.  But then a homeless man who has been injured comes to the uppity neighborhood of Hawke’s and starts screaming for help, begging to be let in.  Hawke’s son disarms the security system and lets the man in.   Seeing that Hawke isn’t too happy with his presence, the homeless dude disappears within Hawke’s very large house.   So now Hawke and Headey, with guns drawn, search the house to find this stranger and boot him out.   After all, this guy could be a rapist, murderer, or worse…a politician.

To make matters worse, a group of about 8 heavily armed preppies track the homeless guy to Hawke’s house, and now they want Hawke to hand over the homeless guy.  If Hawke doesn’t do it, the preppies will force their way in and kill everyone inside.

“The Purge” is the best, independent movie I’ve seen in many years.  At a cost of about $3 million (I’m assuming Hawke and Headey took a big pay cut in exchange for a bigger back end), this goes to show you that good writing and directing and acting are better than having a big budget with a  mediocre script.  Yes, many of the fight scenes ended the same way (the writing got lazy in those parts), but overall “The Purge” is a must-watch.  The movie deals with many subjects such as: what your neighbors really think of you beneath all those fake smiles and compliments; what morals and values you are willing to compromise to keep yourself alive and safe; how people view and treat those who are poor; and how easy it is to turn your back and ignore the suffering of others as long as it’s not happening to you.

With a run time of under 1 1/2 hours, “The Purge” moves fast, locking in the audience’s attention early in the movie even before the Purge begins.  Hawke’s drive home, Headey preparing dinner and yapping with the neighbors…all these scenes have a lot of tension because of what will begin when the sun goes down.  That is good writing, directing and editing.

My most memorable, movie moment of “The Purge” is the scene when Headey makes a decision on what to do with some of her home invaders.  Since this happens near the end of the story, I won’t go into any details.  Depending on who you are and what your views are regarding certain things, you’ll agree and like what she does, or you’ll disagree and tell yourself that it didn’t make any sense.

Whatever you’ll feel about the ending, “The Purge” will stay with you long after it’s over, and you’ll probably ask yourself if you were in that situation, would you go out and participate in the Purge?  If so, who would you go after?  Me: I’d go after that neighbor who always likes to park in front of my house with the ass-end of his big, SUV partly blocking my driveway.

— M