If any country needs to “have a dialogue” about violence, the United States is the obvious first choice. Although raising this topic is the laudable goal of The Purge, the delivery is so heavy-handed that what is meant as an allegory about the black rage at the heart of America inadvertently becomes an indictment of Hollywood’s black hole — that vortex of greed and cynicism into which vanishes a large amount of filmmaking talent.
It’s a mere 10 years into the future and America has enacted a terrifying new law: once a year, for 12 hours, murder and mayhem become legal. The theory is that this night of carnage — referred to as “release the beast” — is a safety valve whereby humanity’s darkest impulses are briefly let off the leash, thereby hitting a psychological reset button. A few dissenting voices point out that the majority of the victims are the poor — those without the resources of a gated community — but most Americans have bought into the program because unemployment is way down and life seems sunny indeed.
As Purge starts, the Sandin family gets ready to ride out the night: not interested in the hunt themselves, they activate their high-tech security system and plan to watch a movie. But young son Max has a tender heart and doesn’t understand why people need to kill; not surprisingly, when he spots an injured black man on the run from a gang out to slaughter him, he de-activates the security system long enough to allow him into their house. The mob is none too thrilled to be denied their sport and demand the Sandins hand the man back or face dire consequences. Of course, anyone who has seen Straw Dogs (or any other home-invasion thriller) knows what comes next.
Hamstrung by a preposterous premise and further burdened with clunky dialogue and an unimaginatively directed series of horror-movie moments, Purge purports to rail against violence while simultaneously showcasing nasty things to do with guns, axes and knives. The fact that the victim is poor and black while his pursuers are spoiled preppies wearing crested blazers raises real questions of race and class that director James DeMonaco doesn’t even pretend to deal with. In all, this is like a bored and boozy Sam Peckinpah directed a script from the reject bin of The Twilight Zone. M
The Purge ★★
Directed by James DeMonaco
Starring Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey
R - 86 minutes
Continues at The Odeon and SilverCity
Chile continues to produce great mid-price wines. Case in point: the Errazuriz “Max Reserva” syrah, an estate-bottled beauty that is richly flavoured with spice, black cherry, bitter chocolate, and a hint of anise. And as the name implies, this is more in the style of a French syrah than a fruit-bomb Aussie shiraz. Although well priced at $20, this is currently on sale at LDB stores for $17 – truly a tasty value!
THIS IS THE END -(Odeon/SilverCity/Westshore) In this truly wacked comedy a bunch of stars such as Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel and Jonah Hill play themselves as they party at James Franco's house — only to find themselves confronting a terrifying, monster-filled apocalypse. Starts Wed., June 12.
MAN OF STEEL -(Empire 6/SilverCity/Empire Uni 4/Westshore) Zack Snyder (The Watchmen, 300) helms the much-anticipated reboot of the series about the original caped superhero. Starring Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, and Michael Shannon as the villainous General Zod. Starts Fri.
★½ AFTER EARTH -(Caprice) Will Smith stars with son Jaden in this shoddy-looking and woefully simplistic sci-fi thriller about intergalactic travellers who crashland on Earth 1,000 years after it became uninhabitable. Directed by M. Night Shyamalan.
THE CROODS -(Caprice) A prehistoric family taking an unexpected "road trip" into a magical land is the plot of this whimsical animated charmer (which has been getting great reviews). With the vocal talents of Emma Stone, Nicolas Cage, and Ryan Reynolds.
EPIC -(Empire 6/SilverCity/Westshore) In this animated family adventure a teenage girl is magically transported to a deep forest setting where she bands together with a wacky crew of critters to help battle a terrifyingly dark force that is threatening their world . . . and ours.
ESCAPE FROM PLANET EARTH -(Caprice) This animated adventure tale features a brave astronaut in peril because of inter-galactic bad guys. With the vocal talents of Brendan Fraser, Sarah Jessica Parker and Jessica Alba.
★★½ FAST & FURIOUS 6 -(Empire 6/SilverCity/Westshore) The high-octane series continues, with ever-wilder stunts. In this outing Dom's crew is asked to take down an ex-Special Ops soldier who has morphed into a super-criminal specializing in vehicular warfare. Starring Dwayne Johnson, Vin Diesel, and Paul Walker. Note: moves from the Odeon to the Empire 6 on Friday.
★★½ THE GREAT GATSBY -(Empire 6/Caprice) Baz Luhrman (Moulin Rouge) directs a lavish, over-the-top but decidedly uninvolving screen version of F. Scott Fitzgerald's iconic Jazz Age novel about a glamorous and mysterious millionaire on Long Island. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, and Carey Mulligan. Note: opens Friday at the Caprice.
THE HANGOVER PART III -(Empire 6/Westshore) All those bad boys from the Wolfpack are reunited for a final return to Vegas. As if anything could go wrong ... With Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and Zach Galifianakis. By all accounts, this one is well worth avoiding.
★★ THE INTERNSHIP -(Odeon/Westshore/SilverCity) Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson — whose bromantic charm is running thin — play two salesmen whose careers are trashed by the digital age. Suddenly, they find themselves at Google headquarters competing with tech-savvy 20-somethings for a couple of highly-prized internships. A promising premise goes nowhere thanks to a clichéd plot and over-written scenes.
★★★ IRON MAN 3 -(Empire 6/SilverCity/Caprice) An emotionally unbalanced Iron Man (Robert Downey) goes up against the terrifying Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), one of the more intriguing megalomaniacs of recent years. Despite being a step down from the original — and a bit long-winded and bombastic — this is an imaginative, humorous and fast-paced thrill ride. With Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle and Guy Pearce.
★★★½ MUD -(Odeon/Empire Uni 4) The once-mocked Matthew McConaughey has latterly begun making interesting films, such as this fable-like drama about a fugitive on the run who meets up with two teenage boys who vow to help him reunite with his true love. Imagine a combination of Stand By Me and Beasts of the Southern Wild. With Reese Witherspoon, Sam Shepard and Michael Shannon.
★★ NOW YOU SEE ME -(Odeon/SilverCity/Westshore) The FBI and Interpol combine forces to battle a clever crew of Las Vegas illusionists who seem to be robbing banks . . . while simultaneously performing for a casino audience. Despite a great cast that includes Morgan Freeman, Mark Ruffalo, and Jesse Eisenberg, this is a flabby caper film with little magic to it.
★★ OBLIVION -(Caprice) Tom Cruise stars in a visually stylish but rather dull and derivative sci-fi thriller about a man who returns to a ruined Earth to extract its remaining resources when strange things start to happen and he begins to question his mission and himself.
★★ THE PURGE -(Odeon/SilverCity) Ethan Hawke stars in a thriller about a future world where once a year there is a 12-hour "release the beast" night where all form of violence and murder is legal. As allegories about the American soul go, this one is both painfully heavy-handed and all too predictable. See review.
★★★½ STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS -(Odeon/SilverCity/Empire Uni 4/Westshore) J.J. Abrams retains the helm of the rebooted Star Trek franchise with this entertaining and engaging tale about a youthful Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) tackling a seemingly unstoppable one-man weapon of mass destruction. With Bruce Greenwood, Zoe Saldana, and a sinister Benedict Cumberbatch.
★★ THE BIG WEDDING -(Caprice)
★★½ OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL -(Caprice)
★★½ PAIN & GAIN -(Caprice)
★★★★ STILL MINE -(Empire 6)
★½ IDENTITY THIEF -(Caprice)