The new Ethan Hawke thriller The Purge was number one at the box office during its opening weekend, but critics are slamming the film for its thinly veiled commentary against the National Rifle Association, Sarah Palin, and Tea Party groups.
The plot brings moviegoers to the near future where in 2022 a new regime has come to America. The “New Founders” have taken over the country and practically eliminated unemployment, crime, and want.
One of the ways this new political movement has brought on such an idyllic society is to allow one night a year when any and all violence, even murder, is legal. Citizens are allowed to “purge” their basest tendencies during that one lawless night.
The whole premise takes quite a lot of suspension of disbelief. If it were that easy to shut off human nature for 364 days a year, why not shut it off for that last one? But director James DeMonaco was more interested in social commentary than logic. And his hope was to purge the NRA, the Tea Party, Sarah Palin, and conservatives.
This anti-right-wing bias isn’t a simple perception of detractors, either. The director of the film, James DeMonaco, has come right out and admitted that he made his film as a commentary on America, its propensity toward violence, and conservative groups. And if it wasn’t clear enough in the film some of the characters wear Sarah Palin masks to drive that home.
The director himself told the film fan website Bloody Disgusting that he intended his film to be social commentary. He had lived in France and Canada for a time and noticed that the news coverage was very different outside the U.S.
“Their news was just about us because they had nothing to report. Not much crime there. I was seeing this pattern–outside of our country, they just don’t have the relationship with violence that we have,” he said.
When the interviewer noted that the U.S. is n such turmoil that she might be in a mood to allow extremists to come to power to set things right, the director agreed.
DeMonaco said that when writing the film, “I layered in these New Founding Fathers, this regime that we voted into power at some point, some kind of NRA-thing that took over the country.”
How a group like the NRA can go from one dedicated to making sure all Americans enjoy personal security and individual rights to one that somehow becomes a centrally directed, authoritarian government is not explained in the movie. But, again, we’ll have to suspend disbelief to go with this film.
The director also made the lead character played by Ethan Hawke a somewhat un-sympathetic character because he is “rich.”
At the beginning, Ethan Hawke’s character is kind of a despicable guy if you analyze his take on society. He sells security systems to the rich, he knows poor people get killed, but (his family doesn’t) because they can afford their own protection. To me, the most telling line of his character is “It doesn’t happen in our neighborhood.”
The movie was panned by Ed Morrissey as being “as subtle as a jackhammer welded to the grill of a Mack Truck speeding at the viewers at 95 miles an hour.”
Morrissey also sees a slam on Christianity in the film.
On top of all this subtlety, everyone says, “Blessed be the New Founders! Blessed be the new America!” just in case you haven’t figured out that it’s Christianity that tells people to cleanse their souls by murdering the poor. Funny, I’ve studied the Bible and theology for quite a while now, and have seen many faith-based organizations proving food, shelter, clothing, and health care to the poor. I guess James DeMonaco saw Contact once and figured he knew what religion was really all about. The better-living-through-sacrificing-inconvenient-human-life model bears a lot more resemblance to pro-abortion apologias, but it would take a brave and innovative Hollywood filmmaker to make that argument, and DeMonaco is neither.
Morrissey afound the action to be entirely predictable and stale.
“It’s not even fun enough to watch for giggles over how bad it is,” Morrissey says. “In fact, I’d suggest that anyone who watched this nonsense will spend several days attempting to purge themselves of the memory.”
Hawke himself acknowledges the film’s social commentary, saying that much of the content can be interpreted in a variety of ways. The actor draws a distinct line, though, about one sequence in the film:
It’s a very strange oxymoron — the movie is an extremely violent film with an extremely anti-violent message. I mean, if you watch the actor Edwin Hodge run through a gated community [while] being shot at and not think of Trayvon Martin, then you’re missing the point of the movie.
At a cost of $3 million the movie had a fairly low budget for a Hollywood production.
The Purge opened on June 6 and over its opening weekend, was the number one box office draw taking in $34 million.