The Purge: A Film Pre-Review


Hopefully, the film doesn’t run 12 hours.

After my first pre-viewing movie review, I received a request to pre-review™ the new Ethan Hawke film, The Purge.  As is my method, I have not seen this film.  After reading this pre-review, I may not want to see it, either.

The Purge stars Hawke, a movie star of sorts.  He was excellent in Training Day as a naive PCP-smoking cop who concludes his first day in Narcotics by shooting Denzel Washington in the ass.  He’s also been in other films, although I’m at a total loss to name one.  He was married to Uma Thurman at one point.  Uma is one of those people who looks much better in photos than live action, sort of like Gwyneth Paltrow.  Anyway, Hawke has to be a star if Uma married him.

The Purge is directed by James DeMonaco, of whom know I almost nothing.  According to the Internet Movie Database, he wrote The Negotiator, which I really liked.  He also wrote Jack, an atrocious film starring Robin Williams.  Jack centered around the humorous tale of a kid with some fast-aging disease.  Funny stuff.  How bad was it?  Diane Lane is in it, and I didn’t even care.  Inexplicably, it was directed by Francis Ford Coppola at what had to be the nadir of his career.  Imagine Martin Scorcese directing an Ace Venture sequel and you get the point. Oh, Jack was produced by Fred Fuchs.  That figures.

If I understand the trailer, The Purge is set is the near-future–I know that because there are no space ships and people aren’t wearing jumpsuits.  Unemployment and crime are at all-time lows because of the “Purge.”  During the Purge nothing is illegal and all emergency services are cancelled.  You can just run wild and kill people.  Most of the action looks like it takes place at night.  The movie poster says that it lasts 12 hours–the Purge, not the film (hopefully).

The Purge is some kind of cathartic exercise which keeps the country calm the rest of the year.  Don’t buy the hype that this is an “original” idea.  My best friend growing up–Jimmy–had this idea first.  When we were in high school, Jimmy wanted one day a year when we could just kill anyone we wanted.  He theorized that we had so much violence in our home county because, if you hated someone, there was no way to avoid that person.  Eventually, something had to give.  So, this idea isn’t original.  As an unrelated aside, he also suggested replacing the electric chair with “death by bear trap,” where the condemned would be thrown into a pit full of bear traps. Jimmy thought that would be more humane.  That’s questionable, but I still consider him to be the Father of Lethal Injection.

Hawke is the father of a nice, normal-looking family.  They lock down their house during the Purge and wait it out.  Some dude gets in their house right before lock down and other marauders terrorize the family during the Purge.  Michael Bay produced this film, so there are probably a lot of explosions.

Here’s what’s bound to happen.  This hapless interloper is probably not that bad guy, although the Hawke family is terrified of him.  They debate throwing him to the mob or maybe just killing him themselves. They might even try to kill each other.  Lots of stuff happens–attacks, injuries, killings, etc.  Eventually, Hawke realizes that his nice little family isn’t much different from the bloodthirsty goons on the street.  Other stuff happens and the movie ends.  Important lessons are learned about the true nature of humans.

The bad guys wear masks, but I can’t figure out why.  I thought everything was legal.  Why the masks?  I guess that just makes them scarier.  Without seeing the film, it’s hard to say, really.

Murderous goons on the prowl.  This isn't nearly as scary as Halloween in Harlan County

Murderous goons on the prowl. This isn’t nearly as scary as Halloween in Harlan County

I must praise Hawke’s performance here.  Normally, he portrays a disheveled, grungy-looking guy in need of a close shave and a good conditioner.  From what I can tell, he’s pretty clean-cut here.  That’s a stretch for him, and one must respect that.  On the downside, he’s still kind of squinty-eyed and fairly incomprehensible when he talks.

Looking at the cast for the film, I note that one character is named “Zoey.”  This is an obvious and shameless attempt to deceive the public into believing that Zooey Deschanel is in this film.  She is not–or at least she isn’t in the credits.  So, don’t go to this film expecting to see the charming and beguiling Zooey.  Shame on Michael Bay for engaging in such fraud in order to sell a film.

It also should be noted that Julianne Hough is not in this film.  I like her and want her in more films–every film, in fact.  How hard would it have been to write a dancing scene?  If you’re locked down all night, you’d get bored. Dancing would be a good way to kill time.

I have to ask a question about the plot:  Why the hell would this Purge work?  I grew up in Harlan County, Kentucky, where we were in a state of almost constant Purge, and it didn’t seem to help crime OR unemployment.  If people go bat-shit crazy for 12 hours, do they just calm down afterwards?  Maybe there is some kind of Draconian police state that takes care of that.  If so, why even have the Purge?  The whole thing seems rife with problems.  It’s just not realistic.

It’s a close call, but I can’t recommend The Purge.  On the one hand, I am pleased to see my friend’s idea come to the Big Screen some 35 years after the fact.  On the other hand, I haven’t seen the film, so there’s that.  Ethan Hawke is a plus, because of Training Day–I like all films starring Denzel Washington.  Characters such as “Bloody Stranger” and “Interrupting Freak” are intriguing, too.  But, there’s Jack to consider, too.

I give The Purge a 4.25.


After Earth: A Review of Sorts


At first, I thought Kid N Play had made a House Party sequel. Turns out it was just a shadow.

Folks love to review movies.  The Internet is full of professional and amateur reviewers.  Since I’m a blogger and enjoy films, I think I should join in.  The question is how to distinguish my reviews from the sundry others out there in the blogosphere.  I’ve hit upon an approach that sets me apart.  I shall only review films that I have not actually seen.

I’m not the only person to do this, of course.  A generation ago, many people condemned Martin Scorcese’s The Last Temptation of Christ without seeing it–and it was a great movie.  How shall I approach this task?

I will call them “films,” not movies.  A film is important, while a movie is something you could produce in your basement.  I am a film critic, not a movie buff.  I gather my knowledge through Wikipedia, trailers, word of mouth and my knowledge of films in general.  Armed with this information, an actual viewing of the film is a waste of my valuable time.

My first such review is of the new film from director M. Night Shamalayn (I have no idea how to spell his name, so I’ll mostly call him “M”) After EarthAfter Earth stars Will Smith and his son, the Fake Karate Kid.   I heard somewhere that the Fresh Prince came up with a plot outline and had someone else write it.  Then, Will hired M to direct.  One can assume that Will was too busy making tripe like Hancock and I Am Legend to have seen any of M’s recent films.

As a general rule, I’m okay with science fiction films.  A Boy and His Dog, Silent Running, Star Wars and Planet of the Apes (original, not the remake) are among my favorites.  I only ask that the premise be something at least remotely plausible.  Hey, maybe apes can learn how to talk–who knows?  Don’t make it something so damn ridiculous that I can’t focus on anything else–like The Happening (Oooh, the trees are going to kill us!) or Roger Corman’s It Conquered The World (Run for your life!  It’s a giant space pickle!).    This film is probably like that.

Will and the Karate Kid live at some time in the distant future when Earth has been destroyed by nuclear war or pollution or overpopulation or global warming or some kind of plague. One way we know it is the future is that people wear jumpsuits.  If my grandfather gets regenerated at some point, he will fit right in.  I know from the trailer that the Smiths are in a space ship and crash on Earth where they are terrorized by a variety of CGI beasts.  One can safely assume that there are no humans on this Earth.

It looks like that animals and plants have taken over and now try to kill people.  That plot device worked so well in The Happening that I guess M couldn’t resist revisiting it.  He probably thought people laughed out loud at that piece of cinematic flotsam only because he cast Mark Wahlberg at a science teacher.

A staple of all futuristic or space alien films is that all alien life forms have one goal in mind:  The total annihilation of the human race.  (Okay, E.T. was an exception, but you saw what kind of treatment he got).  Although After Earth takes place on Earth, it’s safe to assume that plot device is in play here, too.

Anyways, I’m guessing that Will is a stern but loving father unable to show his emotions while the Karate Kid is a rebellious hellion of some sort.  No doubt there is much father-son angst as the son is in danger of being killed by something or other a bunch of times.


The Smiths wearing cool futuristic space seat belts.

Will plays a dour, super-serious, unemotional, enigmatic character.  How do I know this?  Because that’s always the lead role in Shamalongadingdong’s films–Bruce Willis in The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable; Mel Gibson in Signs; Mark Wahlberg in The Happening; and everyone in The Village.  (I couldn’t sit through The Lady in the Water long enough to say if that was the case there).

There’s a lot of action interrupted by long, dull father-son bonding.  The Karate Kid runs a lot and is chased by things.  Someone will get grievously injured–probably the Dad–and the other one will heroically save him.  Or maybe one of the bloody-thirsty, human-hating animals will do it.  Then, there will be some greater understanding of something important.

In the end, something uplifting happens and Will and Junior hug.  Maybe Will saves him from giant piranha out of the SyFy Network classic, Mega Piranha.  Regardless, Will has learned more from his son than he could ever teach him.

What can I say about Will, Jr.’s performance?  It probably wasn’t very good.  Ever since Sofia Coppola ruined The Godfather Part III, I’ve condemened performances of the children of stars and film makers without seeing the performances.  (Remember poor Andy Garcia having to pretend that he couldn’t control his lust for Sofia?  He deserved an Oscar).

This film is really long.  Directors get carried away with CGI action and fill in plot holes with it.  M’s plot holes, being much larger than most, will require long, drawn-out CGI sequences.  My guess is that After Earth clocks in at just under 4 hours–or at least it will seem like that.

I bet this is one of those films where you think it’s about to end and then goes on for another hour, like Steven Spielberg’s A.I.–Artificial Intelligence.  That one starred the creepy kid from The Sixth Sense as an even creepier robot who wanted to be a real creepy boy.  He ends up under water staring at the Blue Fairy.  Hell, I thought it was over and then it went on for another hour.  After Earth is like that, I’m sure.

What of M’s famous “twist” endings?  You know, like in The Sixth Sense and The Village and Unbreakable?  What happens here?  POTENTIAL SPOILER ALERT:  Turns out that Will Smith is dead.  Maybe they’re not on Earth at all but on another planet made to look like Earth.  There’s bound to be something, and you’ll probably figure it out during the opening credits.

I can’t recommend this film, mostly because I haven’t seen it.  If Clint Eastwood starred in it, I would recommend it regardless. I’m sure I’m not alone in my disappointment that neither Zooey Deschanel nor Julianne Hough are in the film, as far as I know.  Zooey is the most darling girl in film.  That’s why I still recommend The Happening. If there were a scene of the comely Ms. Hough dancing and seductively gyrating about the space ship, I would change my recommendation. Grown men weep when they look directly at her.   If some aspiring film maker will remake After Earth with Zooey and Julianne, it will get my highest recommendation.


Zooey proved her sci-fi bona fides in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. There’s no reason she shouldn’t have been cast in After Earth.

Based upon my super-secret proprietary rating system, I give After Earth a 3.

© 2013