(Spoilers.) A rare movie which, at least when it was originally released, had its cake and ate it, too — but the subsequent evolution into a franchise has pretty much negated, in retrospect, the [violent but oddly bloodless] movie's social criticism and supposed anti-violence message. The tale centers around a happily married, well-to-do, neo-liberal couple with two kids who live in a vomit-inducing McMansion-hell suburb in "New America", an Un-united States of the future that pretty much reflects the neo-fascist attitude of today's totalitarian-minded Republicans. (Note: "You are either with us or against us" is not an attitude that is conducive to a working democracy.)
Do we really have to mention that in the future today of the franchise (and this, its first film), for one 12-hour period a year murder and total lawlessness is legal? In The Purge, when some defenseless and bloodied low-income black man (Edwin Hodge of All the Boys Love Mandy Lane [2009 / trailer]) screaming for help stumbles into the neighborhood where safety-systems salesman James Sandin (Ethan Hawk of Daybreakers [2009) lives with his beautiful stay-home wife Mary Sandin (Lena Headey of Dredd [2012 / trailer] and, of course, The Game of Thrones [2011-19], seen belwo from GQ and not the movie) and kids live, their still-idealistic young son Charlie (Max Burkholder) gives him refuge. Not smart, as angering the entitled Proud Boys and Girls of America is definitely a mistake: they aren't wimps when they know they can get away with it. (Really, though: is killing your girlfriend's dad a viable way to win her hand and get in her panties?)
Anyway, first comes the concept of "save our own skin", then that of "what have we become?", and finally the desperation of the pure survival mode — but all of it transpires in a fashion far more intriguing and involving than one would expect. A surprisingly effective and affective movie.