FRESH POUR: The Purge (2013) / The Internship (2013)

Clint takes a look at two new releases that come out each week –just a short look at what’s being released in theaters, along with some drinking rules for your own perusal.

The Purge / dir. James DeMonaco / Universal Pictures

ThePurgePoster

It’s the near future, and a mysterious conservative party called the New Founding Fathers has reinvented America in the wake of a devastating recession with a new rule: for 12 hours one night each year, all crime is legal – including murder. For the Sandins, the Purge means hiding away in the fortress-like security system that father James (Ethan Hawke) sells to the rich to keep them safe during the ensuing chaos while the world burns around them all night. However, with the appearance of a bloodied, hunted homeless man and his admittance into the house by younger son Charlie (Max Burkholder), they must face the realities of the Purge coming straight into their house.

I’m really not one to nitpick plot holes, but when a film hinges its whole central concept on something it really fails to explore, it aggravates me (especially when the concept itself is offensive enough). Such is the case with The Purge – what seems to be an attempt to satirize the gun-nut/NRA culture and things like the Trayvon Martin case merely becomes a half-baked scenario played straight, without nearly the level of cutting commentary I think the director was going for. There are many possibilities to be mined in The Purge, but the film boils down to Every Home Invasion Thriller You’ve Ever Seen, and it’s tedious in that regard as well. The action and horror is tepidly played, and I swore if I saw one more shot of Ethan Hawke or Lena Headey wandering down a near-dark corridor with a handgun and a flashlight,  I was going to throw something. The pacing of the movie was just everywhere; characters would disappear and reappear for no reason other than they weren’t necessary for scenes, and they might also be needed to save someone at the last minute by shooting them (a tremendously uncreative bit of action business that is way overused here).

They pay lip service to the correlation between crime and class/race relations being a bad thing, but never enough to actually make it count as commentary. The lesson learned is that you’re a good person for actively choosing to not be racist, but you don’t actually have to learn anything about them. Seriously, if your message is “poor homeless black people are people too,” make your poor homeless black person a person.

The characters are either too broadly silly or poorly-drawn; I couldn’t tell you anything about any of these characters, including the one on whom the scenario’s premise is derived. A few pluses include okay performances from Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey (she crushes it in a few moments), but otherwise it’s totally forgettable. Also, on Purge Night, people don’t just vent their frustrations, they become serial killers with weird rituals and Hannibal Lecter-esque phrasing, as is the case with the annoying yuppie antagonist, played by a mulleted Rhys Wakefield. It clouds the Trayvon Martin allegory a bit, since it clashes with the white suburbanite fear of gang warfare the movie’s concept wants to touch on. I hated the main villain, since his own behavior and mannerisms seemed so deliberately to be an affectation; does he talk like this the other 364 days of the year? It doesn’t seem to be ‘unleashing the true, violent beast inside,’ it just turns you into a cartoon character from a slasher movie.

Moreso than the class/race war thing, I picked up quite a bit of white-collar capitalist competitiveness in the twist where the neighbors suddenly decide they have the urge to Purge (thank you, here all week). Basically, their neighbors are so jealous that the Sandins are doing so well – I guess from the sales of the security systems to them – that they need to release that through murdering them. Didn’t they have the choice to buy those? Couldn’t they have said no? They can’t possibly be mad at Ethan Hawke for selling them a product they bought, then buying things with that money. It might have been something different if he worked for the government and was responsible for higher taxes to go towards the security systems or whatever, since it’s involuntary (and would play into the themes of the rich getting richer/poor getting poorer through the rich’s fear of taxation). As it stands the final conflict seems incredibly petty, and the film simply fails on the whole both as allegory and a nail-biting thriller.

Other Purge thoughts:
-Why are emergency services called off for 12 hours? What if someone’s house is on fire, or someone unrelated to The Purge gets a heart attack? Fuck ’em, I guess? I just thought the point of The Purge is that you wouldn’t be charged with a crime or breaking the law. In the film, they say that only certain kinds of weapons are actually allowed, and that government employees of a certain grade are immune to the Purge. Without emergency services, how are you going to enforce that?

-If someone is shot during Purge Night, but doesn’t actually die until after it’s over, are they still charged with murder?

-How does it cover crimes of passion? When someone walks in on their wife cheating on them with someone else, do they just have to bottle it up until Purge Night?

-How does this process lower crime, since I’m positive more people are killed during Purge Night than there are murders in the United States per annum now?

-The Purge is also supposed to ‘lower unemployment’ through no other reason than 1)gun and security system sales go up and 2) the Purge gets rid of poor people depending on government assistance, I guess. These are, apparently, the only two things preventing America from having unemployment. Also, rich people must be super fine cooking their own meals and cleaning their toilets.

Clint’s Verdict: Skip It

Drinking Rules for The Purge:
1) Drink anytime someone says the phrase “release the beast”
2) Drink whenever someone is saved at the last minute by someone else shooting their attacker
3) Drink every time someone gushes spiritually about the release The Purge affords themselves/others

Finish Your Drink When:
Mary (Lena Headey) says, “let’s just finish this night with some motherfucking peace. What do you say?”

The Internship / dir. Shawn Levy / 20th Century Fox

The-Internship-movie-posterGoogle. Google Google Google. Have I told you about Google? Well, this film wants you to know about Google. Google’s pretty great; it’s got everything you could possibly need in an Internet company, from free email to effective maps to online shopping solutions and even software for smartphones! Not only that, it can actually bring hope to baby boomers who are desperately underskilled in today’s technological world! Is there anything Google can’t do?

All through watching The Internship, this is pretty much what I heard the film yelling at me every second. Basic premise: Middle-aged salesmen/bromantic partners Nick (Owen Wilson) and Billy (Vince Vaughn) find themselves out of a job after their watch company is closed. (By the way, between this and The Hangover Part III I’m convinced John Goodman’s new character direction is to show up in a film and provide the inciting incident.) This setback leads the pair to desperately grasp for an internship at the ubiquitous software/technology company in the hopes of getting a job there. From there on, it’s pretty much what you’d expect: the old guys teach the young upstarts some old-fashioned values of teamwork and appreciating the moment, while they also learn the fast-paced world of technology. More than that, though, they learn the value of Google becoming the world’s benevolent overlords, not stopping until they have wormed their way into every small business in America, regardless of their applicability to their business model.  (Seriously, the climactic challenge in this movie is that the team needs to convince a small pizza place to start using Google products, which they do by trying to get them to drink the Google Kool-Aid.)

Before I get too off-track, let’s talk about the film itself. There’s a pretty smart Onion video sarcastically proclaiming this movie the biggest comedy of 2005, and I can’t ignore how accurate this is. It very much feels like an 8-year-old script that someone drudged up because they needed to put out a summer comedy: it reunites the goldmine Wedding Crashers duo of Vaughn and Wilson (whose chemistry is one of the few highlights in the film – I could always at least find something charming about what they were doing together), and includes references to everything from X-Men to Harry Potter. Hell, Flashdance becomes the cornerstone of Vaughn’s pep talks throughout the movie. This, along with the film’s extremely formulaic nature (there are absolutely no surprises here, it’s PG-13 Buddy Comedy 101 stuff), make it feel almost deliberately dated, as if the film is like Nick and Billy – desperately trying to fit in among its younger, fresher peers.

The supporting cast does its best despite the hampered material; the group of kids Nick and Billy are teamed with don’t really overstay their welcome, apart from the occasional reminders of their stereotypical flaws. One is constantly checking his phone, one is a hot, weird Indian girl who fantasizes about hentai roleplay, and another is a terrified mama’s boy who needs to find his self-esteem. Naturally, they all find their true selves after Nick and Billy take them to a strip club – a truly inspiring message. That being said, it was the best scene in the film since at least it was a change of pace from the stifling omnipresence of the ever-so-quirky Googleplex campus.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m no enemy of Google – I’m writing this review in Google Chrome and will post it, checking for comments through my Gmail account on my Android smartphone, hopefully while also using Google Maps to make sure I don’t get lost on my way to the bank. Google makes some great stuff; however, the intrusion of Google’s philosophies and corporate personhood into this movie gets a little stifling at times. There are characters who act like Google-centric activists, who truly believe that they’re making the world a better place – which I would admire much more if they were working for a charity, and not one of the largest for-profit companies in the world. Go join Greenpeace, then tell me how much of your life you are sacrificing for your ideals, Rose Byrne. In the meantime, don’t kid yourself: Google wants to sell me things that I want to use. The whole film is a 120-minute ad for Google, which I wasn’t surprised by, but it didn’t do anything for me. At all.

Clint’s Verdict: Skip It

Drinking Rules for The Internship:
1) Drink every time someone (usually Owen Wilson or Vince Vaughn) makes an outdated cultural reference
2) Drink for each time a Google product is name-dropped
3) Drink whenever Lyle (Josh Brener) speaks in obnoxious faux-swagger

Finish Your Drink When:
Andrew (Josh Gad) says, “Their Googliness is off the charts.”

Next week, Clint takes flight with the new Superman reboot Man of Steel and the Frat Pack-centric apocalypse comedy This is the End!

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About Clint Worthington

Clint Worthington is a Chicago-based film/TV critic and podcaster. A member of the Chicago Film Critics Association, you can find his other film work at Consequence of Sound (where he is a Senior Staff Writer), Crooked Marquee, IndieWire and UPROXX. He is also the co-host of Nathan Rabin's Happy Cast.

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