Privilege is an oft-discussed subject, in both my reviews, and in social justice circles at large. Whether one wants to discuss it or not, the privileges we possess as individuals have a tremendous impact on how we perceive, navigate, and are perceived by the world around us. One of the greatest forms of privilege is wealth, which is usually a side effect of other privileges (race, gender, inherited/generational wealth and/or access, etc.). The wealthy, especially those carrying other visible privileges, such as being White, able-bodied, and male, are often in a group referred to as the “haves”, whilst those without said class privilege are the “have-nots”. The “haves”, though a much smaller group (read: the 1%), wield a disproportionate amount of power (read: all of it) and in this dystopian horror, this group decides that such abuses as systemic racism, the school-to-prison pipeline, and myriad environmental crimes simply aren’t enough, and come up with a new form of state-sanctioned genocide: The Purge.
In The Purge, we see a new world where, instead of being able to commit and use their affluence to get away with crimes all year long, the rich decide to vote to make all crime legal, for everyone, one day a year. One night where they can commit crime openly, without having to feign remorse after the fact. Of course, poor, non-sociopathic people would either do nothing, or perhaps use this as an opportunity to steal from insured businesses, to feed themselves and their children, or pay their bills, but White America uses the purge as a time to commit such crimes as torture, rape, and murder, unleashing the violently psychotic beast that lies beneath, hence the name. Because of the nature of the purge, where no crime committed on that day will be penalized, this makes the most marginalized in our society even more vulnerable, especially the homeless.
In 2022, James Sandin (Ethan Hawke), prepares for the Purge Night with his wife, Mary (Lena Headey), and their two children, Zoey and Charlie (Adelaide Kane and Max Burkholder), and while this is something they’ve done for years, and the Sandins have a veritable fortress, thanks to James’ job at a top security company, things do not go as planned. Zoe’s older boyfriend, Henry (Tony Oller), sneaks back into the family’s home before the security system is engaged, and when Charlie sees a homeless man (Edwin Hodge) being chased through their neighbourhood by a ruthless mob and he brings the man into their home, gaining the unwanted attention of very violent and persistent purge revelers, the Sandins quiet evening takes a turn for the deadly.
The Purge isn’t just a though-provoking film because it puts the affluent and the privileged smack-dab in the middle of the monster which they created and uphold, forcing them to face their own complicity. It isn’t just terrifying because it’s so very easy to imagine this taking place in the near future. The Purge is brilliant because it shows the deep-seated depravity and senseless violence that is the foundation of White supremacy and Western capitalism. The viciousness of Whiteness and the inhumanity of capitalism are never so harshly and proudly on display as they are in this film where, for one night, all pretense and pandering go out the window, and people get to be unapologetically at their very worst. The Purge makes you think, makes you feel, and when it’s over, the real world will never let you forget just how real this piece of fiction was.
I give this one 4.5 stars.