My only interest in seeing this film was to determine how the filmmakers handle a rather unique premise: once a year in the U.S., for a 12-hour period, all crime is legal --- including murder. The rationale for this futuristic policy --- the story takes place in 2022 --- is that crime is practically non-existent and unemployment is sitting at a paltry one per cent.
During the opening segments of "The Purge", friends and neighbors are wishing each other a "safe night" instead of "have a good day", "see you later", and so on --- a nice touch to set up the movie's storyline. Alas, it falters from that point on.
James Sandin (Ethan Hawke) is the inventor of a "99% guaranteed safe" security system which will keep people free from harm, in their homes, during "lockdown",
the 12-hours that comprise the national purge. His wife, Mary (Lena Headey), and kids Charlie and Zoey (Max Burkholder and Adelaide Kane), learn over dinner of the bonus James has coming for his clever work. Zoey isn't as excited by that news as she is about her older boyfriend, Henry (Tony Oller), whom dad doesn't much like.
In fact, Henry has been barred from seeing Zoey, so when lockdown begins, Henry has managed to hide in the house to "talk" to James. If that doesn't suggest enough trouble, Charlie, the son, disarms the security system to let a homeless black man into the house.
He is being chased by a mob who want to satisfy their "purge urge" by killing him. You see, American society in 2022 views homeless people as blights on the social fabric who only contribute to a negative economy. Edwin Hodge plays the homeless man, and Rhys Wakefield is the leader of the crazed mob which demands he be released into their custody.
The promising premise of "The Purge" quickly turns into "Straw Dogs" meets "Panic Room". It's never tense, is quite predictable, and features a silly ending involving the Sandin's neighbors. Hawke can be such a fine actor ("Before Midnight"), but this is not one of his better choices.
This film could have been so much more intriguing if the filmmakers, i.e., writer/director James DeMonaco, delved into what was happening in other American cities during the purge. Focusing on a single household proved to be too limiting.
Opinion: Don't Bother!