Great concept, but terribly morally confused and untruthful. This film is in the satirical tradition of Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal, where Swift suggested they sell the children of poor people as food in order ease the economic burden of poverty and the growing underclasses. In this movie, the idea is very simple and high concept: In the near future, one night a year, called The Purge, everyone is allowed to release their hatred upon one another and not be arrested for their violence. The goal is to purge the hatred through a cathartic release of “the Beast” within as people rape and kill one another. Supposedly this cleans up crime to only 1% during the rest of the year, by “sacrificing” those victims of the Purge to the “cleansing” of that Beast. This comes from a “reborn America,” that was instituted by the “New Founding Fathers,” who instituted the Purge to decrease crime and whose praise is chanted by Americans in the phrases, “Blessed be America. May God be with you all.” And of course, in good hypocritical fashion, all government officials are immune from the Purge, just as they always are unaccountable to the laws they pass to saddle everyone else.
Coulda been great.
The hero, James Sandin, is played by Ethan Hawke, as the inventor of the new security systems that most rich people have to “lock down” their homes with steel doors and such. He believes in the Purge and is also excessively prepared to survive the night, with back up firearms and plans – oh, you know, kinda like those whacky survivalist types. The problem comes with a black homeless man who is being chased by some rich kids cries out to helped. One of Sandin’s kids lets him into their home, which sets in motion a violent bloodfest as a group of killers threaten Sandin to let the black homeless man into their hands or they will kill his entire family. And the killers want to kill him because he is a “worthless non-contributing member of society.” And he is black, so they are also racists.
Well, I have to say this was a great concept to explore some complex moral issues such as how far do we go to defend ourselves? What do we do if presented with the impossible options of protecting our family vs. endangering that entire family to save one person. One versus the many. And especially how evil people can be when they think they are not accountable for their actions or if they think they can get away with their behavior. Not that the movie is saying this, but I think this is a powerful argument for the rule of law, as well as, the belief God. If people think that they will ultimately not be punished for what they do in this life, they will do heinous things – even those who seem like nice people on the surface, because the human heart hides a dark sinfulness.
The problem with the movie lies in its confused political morality.
It is an obvious parable about how the rich shelter themselves in their safety and “let the rest of the poor” fend for themselves. Some good potential there too. Which kinda made me think. Well, the most relevant example of that would have been to have the hero be a Hollywood celebrity in his rich protected mansion – not caring about the world they feed off of, or the poor they kick off their curbs – oh wait, those are the people making the movie. We can’t have that. Take two…
But the thing that makes this story fall flat with a lack of authenticity and true original thinking is the Hollywood Political B.S. of trying to tie this Purge concept and all the evil rich people to the Tea Party. Yes, that’s right. The obvious religious language and references to the Founding Fathers, just like the Tea Party always talks about returning to the vision of the Founding Fathers, and God and all that. But the problem is that the immorality of anarchic destruction and lawlessness is the antithesis of Tea Partiers who promote the rule of law peacefully. But lawlessness is more like that of the Occupy Movement with its laundry list of violent crimes like rape, theft, vandalism, and murder that plagues its hateful protests. This rhetorical connection is so opposite of reality that it makes the movie laughable propaganda instead of thoughtful moral exploration. The kind of thinking that results in such violent notions of catharsis and anarchic crime do not come from the Christian religious folk, but from the antichristian Leftist universities and Media machine that dominates this country. One of the few things this movie gets right is having the lead sociopath wearing some kind of prep school jacket or such, to try to show that the evil is just as much from the educated upperclass. Well, actually, it is precisely from that Marxist Leftist hatred of the rich and victimization philosophy that comes from the Universities that would breed this (atheist) French Revolution notion of The Purge. “The rich” are mostly not religious, but secular, so that whole “God bless America” rhetoric just doesn’t ring true. Too bad. It coulda been a thoughtful story.
And I just don’t see this desperate and consistent obsession to connect the “rich” with the Tea Party conservatives or the Republican party. It’s completely counterfactual. The top richest people in congress are almost all Democrats. Wall Street and Big Business give far more money to the Democratic party than the Republican party. The richest people in America tend to be liberals and leftists. All the above the line people of that very movie are statistically all liberal or leftists and they make profits far beyond “fair” compared to the little guys who work below the line. A story has to ring true to be good. This story doesn’t ring true.
SPOILER: At the end when the worst villains turn out to be Sandin’s rich neighbors who kill all the killers because they want the Sandin’s for themselves. And why? Because he got rich off of all of them of course! Really?! I think they are trying to say that the rich like to exploit but they don’t like being exploited. Okay, fair enough. But again, I think that the storytellers may not realize that they are inadvertently proving the point that the real evil that results in all this violence of our society is the victimization that results from the Politics of Envy. The fact is that it was not wrong for Sandin to become rich off an invention of protection that he provided the world. The profit motive is not what is evil, envy and theft is. The belief that getting rich is inherently evil is becoming so woven into our social fabric through government propaganda, media, and entertainment, that people are actually starting to believe the Lie. And that is the lie that justifies in their minds the evil they engage in to “purge” their own hatred with violent desires. The irony of it all is that it is the policies of the secular Left that lead directly to the oppression and exploitation of the poor and minorities, not the religious Tea Party. In order to have been a good movie that dealt with a moral issue fairly, they should have avoided all the politicizing. But if they were going to be truthful or consistent, the phrases that should have been spouted as the slogans of America should have been more like “pay your fair share” “spread the wealth around” and other Socialist or Marxist phrases.
And then the ultimate moral confusion comes when, after the bloodbath, and the wife of Sandin and her kids have the upper hand over their rich neighbors who are trying to kill them, she refuses to kill their attackers because “there’s been enough bloodshed” tonight. She wants to hold them until morning. Obviously they are trying to say that you must stop the cycle of violence by not returning violence with violence. Fair enough. But the problem is that this denies the morality of self-defense. If you do not kill those who are trying to kill you as they are trying to kill you, they will not stop trying to kill you. It’s human nature. Self defense is morally justifiable homicide. Now, if this was a normal legal situation, where they could be brought in to pay for their crimes, then it would be entirely acceptable to “capture” them and bring them to the Law because justice would be done. But that is not the situation. These murderers would go home without justice served, so the wife is simply allowing them to live to kill them the next time, which is not protecting her family. Now, one of the killers tries to get the wife’s gun and she gives the killer a broken bloody nose, so she’s not above using violence to get some “justice.” Wanna stop the killing. But the filmmakers recognize our need to see some comeuppance to the killers, so that’s why they threw that in there. But it ain’t enough. Because we know they will come back to kill again. So there is some worthy stuff in that ending worth debating, but it’s not worth the rest of the untruthful story to get to it.
In case you’re wondering, no, I’m not rich or a member of the Tea Party.