Welcome to the JOE-DOWN, a back-and-forth movie review blog by two snarky newspapermen named Joe from Minnesota, Joe Froemming and Joe Brown. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, Brown picked “The Purge.”
The Movie: “The Purge”
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey, Max Burkholder
Director: James DeMonaco
Plot Summary: (From IMDB) A wealthy family is held hostage for harboring the target of a murderous syndicate during the Purge, a 12-hour period in which any and all crime is legal.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 39 percent
Brown: Throughout July, the JOE-DOWN indulged in some of the great American pastimes with our annual Sports Month. We spent time on the ice rink, the golf course, the baseball diamond and the basketball court.
Now that we’re deep into August, it’s time to indulge another great American pastime: wanton violence and terrible political ideology.
Enter: “The Purge.” A movie that posits that all of the United States’ problems could be cured if we all just killed each other for 12 hours every year.
I remember how heavy-handed the marketing was when this movie came out: putting out phony public service announcements and talking about the Purge with patriotic music playing in the background.
When you see that Michael Bay is a producer on this movie, all of this insanity (not a compliment, like it would be a “Fast and Furious” movie) makes sense.
Froemming, give us your initial take while I tinker with my baby doll camera… thing.
Froemming: This movie is somehow dumber and more shallow than “Boondock Saints.” It is based on the premise that everyone — and I mean everyone — in America is a bloodthirsty sociopath who, given the opportunity, will kill people for fun.
It also puts forth a waterhead political premise, which is a less clever version of this song:
Yeah, the purge is basically population control via killing the poor.
Yet, there is a mask in this that looks suspiciously like Marjorie Taylor Greene, so maybe it did predict some of the lunacy we are currently living in. A broken clock is at least right twice a day.
Brown, as I turn my lockdown system on minutes before a giant violent purge for some reason, why don’t you kick this off.
Brown: So this movie opens in the year 2022. You know, four months from now. I saw that and thought, yeah, we don’t seem entirely far off from this premise. Probably closer to 2024 when we have another presidential election.
The opening credits is a montage of security footage from around the country where people are being murdered through various means. One of the clips was from Rochester, Minnesota, which made me laugh.
Now, America is being run by something called the New Founding Fathers, which enacted a policy where, one night every year, all crime is legal.
Froemming: Now, if all crime was legal, I have a feeling most Americans would be getting really (REDACTED) up on illegal drugs rather than chopping one another to pieces.
Brown: I really wanted to see security footage of someone stealing a jet ski or something dumb. Why does everything here revolve around murder?
Froemming: Also, who pays for all the property damage, burials, funerals, ect. from the fallout of these purges? This was all to cut the cost of crime down, but I feel this would just make insurance premiums skyrocket. And the idea crime only happens during these 12 hours and not the rest of the year is just chucklehead talk.
Brown: But Froemming, didn’t you listen to all the radio bits, TV interviews and family dinner conversations? The Purge works! Crime doesn’t exist and there’s almost no unemployment (because they kill the homeless).
Froemming: But how…I mean, they are relying on the honor system here for people to start and end all crime within these 12 hours. I don’t trust people to not steal toilet paper from gas stations in everyday life.
Brown: Froemming, the answer is simple.
I’m glad I could steal your bit.
Yes, you bring up very, very valid points about how goddamn stupid the Purge is. But this movie bludgeons you to death with how this system works, to the point where I feel like this movie actually endorses this asinine idea.
Froemming: I feel this is how the New Founding Fathers answers all my questions:
Brown: Anyways, we bring our attention to James Sandin (Hawke), who is raking in the dough because he sells top-of-the-line security systems to people that want to lock down during the Purge (see: rich white people). He’s returning home hours before this year’s Purge, and his family is living an idyllic life.
There’s the wife, Mary, who is making dinner and conversing with passive-aggressive neighbors who are clearly going to try and kill them later.
Froemming: I wouldn’t mess with Mary.
Brown: There’s the son, Charlie, who’s character traits are *checks notes* checking his vitals and making creepy surveillance robots that look like a mutant toy from Sid in “Toy Story.”
And then there’s the daughter, Zoey, who’s a horned-up teenager that is constantly making out with her boyfriend that dad doesn’t approve of.
Froemming: They tell us he is an older guy, so he is basically:
Brown: This family is a set of golf clubs away from being the Smails from “Caddyshack.” They may as well call their house the WASP nest.
Froemming: Also, Charlie is a sociopath right? We are introduced to him using his creepy burned baby doll robot to look up his mother’s skirt, which would fit in more in Mary’s other life:
Because that show loves its incest.
Anywho, during dinner the family is gabbing away, and James talks about how there are no carbs in their dinner. Which I think I saw a carrot in there, so no James, your dinner is NOT carb free. Also, learn to enjoy a carb, you joyless upper-crust weirdo.
We also learn Charlie has a secret hiding room in his closet, which I guess all rich families give to their youngest child.
Anyway, James sees it is mere minutes to the start of the purge, and that is when he decides to lockdown the house. Which, I mean, what if it didn’t work or something went wrong? I would have had that house locked down the second I got home from work to make sure everything was on the up and up.
Brown: Right?! I’d be locking down that house at least an hour before the Purge was set to begin, just in case something did go wrong. Also, the family has a compartment of firearms and James goes for a revolver that holds six bullets when there’s a shotgun and (I think) an automatic rifle in there? Opt for the bigger clip when literally anyone could break in.
Also, when the emergency broadcast system comes up and explains the rules of the Purge, one of the things they mention is politicians are immune from being killed. It’s only natural that the politicians make themselves immune.
Froemming: Like politicians wouldn’t be target No. 1 for everyone. If it is anarchy for 12 hours, nobody is going to follow that rule, they are not following any rules. This is more chucklehead talk from this movie.
Meanwhile, Zoey is in her bedroom — still, for some reason, in her skimpy school girl uniform that I highly doubt any school would allow — when we see her boyfriend has snuck into the house.
Kid, in this fictionalized America, you are just asking for James to stand his ground when he sees you. This movie is basically what Florida is in real life.
Brown: That makes sense because…
And to answer your question on why Zoey is dressed like a school girl: Michael Bay is a producer. And you saw how Megan Fox was used in those “Transformers” movies.
So the Purge begins and the kids just scatter because, well, they’re teenagers and what teenager wants to be murdered with their parents?
During the night, Charlie sees a man running in the streets, screaming for help and looking for a place to hide. Seeing that Charlie is one of the few people in this universe that isn’t a mouth-foaming sociopath, he opens the security system and lets this bloodied homeless man in.
If kids at school heard about Charlie doing this in this universe, he’d absolutely be called a beta male. Hell, I’m shocked Ethan Hawke didn’t call him that.
Froemming: This is a world meant for one man:
Also, how did Charlie have the security code? That seems like a bad idea to just give out to everyone in the family. Because, like Red says above, kids are dumbasses.
But hey, this man is now safe. Not sure how he *checks notes* got into this GATED COMMUNITY, but he is now in the house. If I were him, just hide out until the 12 hours are up.
Brown: I think Charlie got the code from watching James type it in prior to the events of the evening. It’s not like James was hiding it from his kids or anything.
But this homeless man isn’t the only other person in this house. Zoey’s boyfriend, Henry, snuck back into the house before the security system turned on. His intention is to talk to James man-to-man to convince him he’s not too old to be dating his teenage daughter.
… Maybe do this on a night where murder isn’t legal, dude.
However, Henry’s means of negotiation is to *check notes* pull a gun on James and try to kill the father of the teenager he’s dating?
During a small firefight, James mortally wounds Henry. The Purge works!
Froemming: In James’ defense:
Zoey drags her homicidal boyfriend to die in her bedroom, because love knows no bounds. The homeless guy is in the house, which is problematic because nobody knows if he is a good guy with a gun or a bad guy with a gun, which proves that premise has a lot of loopholes. And, things are now worse because a roving gang of Republicans with bloodlust in their balls and goofy masks on their face want their prey: A homeless black man.
They really want this one homeless guy. Like, willing to ruin their whole night by terrorizing some rich family to get this guy instead of finding another person to just murder.
Brown: They mention that the homeless man killed someone in their group in self-defense. But you know the rules of the Purge. You move on.
Then again, the Purge is basically an excuse to wipe out the poor. It’s pretty much Whacking Day turned up to 11.
Now, the leader of the
young Republicans Freaks is EASILY the best part of this movie. He so eerily nice and bloodthirsty. And the actor, Rhys Wakefield, is just going for it. Give credit where it’s due for this garbage movie.
Froemming: He is a good actor. I liked him in “True Detective,” which is way better than whatever the hell this is supposed to be.
Anywho, now they have to find this guy in their house and bring him to the Republicans, one whose mask looks just like Marjorie Taylor Greene, though I did not notice Mrs. Greene’s creepy Hobbit feet in this movie.
Also, they think if they give up this guy, these weirdos won’t kill them. It is hard to root for characters that are this stupid.
Well, Charlie — the creepy kid with the psychotic doll-robot who happens to be the only person not crazy in this movie — decides to help this poor son-of-a-bitch who the future of the GOP want by guiding him to his secret hiding spot.
Brown: Yeah, but the homeless man isn’t there for long because a grief-stricken Zoey goes to hide in the spot, only to be overtaken and held hostage from a homeless man who’s just trying to survive this hellscape.
I should also mention that there’s a good half-hour of this movie where it’s just the Sandin family fumbling around in their dark house with flashlights. So I hope you enjoy nothing but flashlights and jump scares.
This is also a good time to mention that this is a shitty horror movie. Any “scares” are lazy jump scares. When they try making the freaks do freaky things, it feels more desperate than haunting. And I don’t care about what happens to most of the Sandin family because I’ve seen them hogtie a black homeless man with duct tape to save their own skins. Charlie and Zoey are fine, but the parents are as much of sociopaths as the creeps outside their home.
Froemming: Well, James has a change of heart — though after having Mary shove a knife in the guy’s open wound — so now they are going to have to deal with this goofy gang. And, if you are going to create a security system for a purge, it should not be defeated by having a truck pull your steel door off its hinges.
So now we get more bumbling in the dark with flashlights, only with the addition of these crazy people who just happen to know what windows to jump through at the right time to scare the bejesus out of the family.
Brown: You know, all this time they spent scoping out the Sandin’s house and waiting for a homeless man, they could have used that time to purge. Or, as this movie LOVES to refer to it as, “release the beast.”
Froemming: I’d prefer if they went bananas!
Brown: I’d rather they unleashed the fury like Tom Green in “Road Trip.”
And again, this movie confuses creepy with stupid when they have these MTG lookalikes skipping down the hallway with axes in their hands.
God, this movie tries so hard and failed so miserably as being a horror movie.
Also, when they finally happen upon James and start attacking him, they start shrieking like the Manson family in “Once Upon A Time in Hollywood.” I would give anything to have seen Ethan Hawke toss a dog food can into one of their faces.
Froemming: He does smash one guy in the skull with a billiards ball, which would probably have cracked that thing wide open, but this attacker was barely phased.
Basically, the family kills a bunch of these weirdos, but James gets stabbed by The Polite Leader, who pulls a real amatuer move by leaving him assuming James is dead.
Brown: Again, I love Rhys Wakefield in this movie. Because it’s not enough to just kill James. He has to go full super villain by kissing James on the forehead and thanking him for this Purge experience while his eyes well up with tears. Then, he cleans himself up like he’s Patrick Bateman.
Give Rhys Wakefield’s character his own movie. You know, after you realize he’s basically from “American Psycho.”
Only, we won’t get that movie because Zoey ends up gunning down the leader of the freaks. Eventually, the neighbors show up and fill the remaining freaks with bullets.
Froemming: This family should have taken Larry David’s advice on neighbors.
Because, the neighbors in a very, very predictable twist came over to purge. That is not really a twist, it is bad writing and bad filmmaking. But here we are. They drag James off, because he died of his wounds. And they get in a circle to sing some weird ass song before they butcher this family.
But they forgot one thing. This movie gave us our very first Chekov’s Homeless Man. Through all this chaos, the movie wanted us to forget the homeless guy. I didn’t. I saw this coming by a country mile. The homeless guy, despite Mary stabbing him in his open wound, decides to save this family from their obnoxious neighbors.
Brown: Yeah, there is nothing surprising about this movie, except for the black guy surviving. So “The Purge” is a progressive movie?
Instead of releasing the beast on her neighbors who wanted to murder the Sandins because James sold them all security systems and rubbing their wealth in the neighborhood’s faces, Mary decides to *checks notes* have everyone sit quietly at the kitchen table until the Purge ends?
… Yeah, the ending is very anticlimactic. There’s a part where Mary hits Grace in the face with the butt of a shotgun, but that’s it. She tells the neighbors to fuck off and they all go back to their lives.
… Question: If I’m one of the neighbors, what’s to stop me from killing the Sandins at 7:01 a.m., a minute AFTER the Purge ends? There’s no system in place to show that a murder happened a minute after the countdown.
Honestly, how does ANY of this work?!
Froemming: Well, I did enjoy Mary smashing that Karen’s face. I wish all those videos of Karens yelling and being racist ended with Lena Headey smashing them in the face with the butt-end of a rifle.
Anyway, let’s purge ourselves of talking about this anymore and head to recommendations.
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?
Brown: No. Not only is this movie bad, it’s really up its own ass. This movie is enjoyed only by sociopaths and Jan. 6 insurrectionists (BTW, that Venn diagram is a circle).
Froemming: Oh no, this was just a horrible movie.
Here is what’s coming up for the next JOE-DOWN: