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Case Number 07484

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The Purifiers

New Line // 2004 // 82 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // August 30th, 2005

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All Rise...

Judge David Johnson longed for the subtlety of Mortal Kombat: Annihilation after enduring this vapid techno-brawler.

The Charge

The new generation of warriors.

Opening Statement

In the maybe-not-so-distant future, gangs run the streets and like to fight each other a lot. This is their story.

Facts of the Case

When they're not selling drugs or engaging in any number of their multitude of seedy dealings, the competing gangs of this rat-hole of a city enjoy beating the caulk out of each other in karate matches in the local YMCA. This positive outlet of angst is good and all, but the tenuous truce that exists between the gangs is in constant danger of evaporating.

That's where Moses comes in. Moses (Kevin McKidd) is a powerful city politician who seeks to unite the competing gangs under his sinister auspices, to streamline all the extracurricular criminal activity. Everyone is on board with the new proposal except for John (Gordon Alexander). John is the most powerful and influential gang leader, but his cabal, calling themselves The Purifiers, concern themselves not with criminal activity but with vigilantism. You see, they're the good guys.

But the overarching instability of the gang community is reflected in The Purifiers. Some of John's own crew are anxious to get on board with the idea of unification, and the eventual permanent truce that would follow. The strongest advocate is Sol (Dominic Monaghan, Lost), and his allegiance is constantly in question.

When John eventually declines the offer to join with Moses, he and the other Purifiers are immediately placed on the hit list, and find themselves embroiled in the longest and deadliest night of their lives.

The Evidence

The Purifiers is a techno-laced, super-stylized, ultra-wacky-kinetic trainwreck of a film. It seems writer/director Richard Jobson desperately wants to create a hard-hitting action spectacle mixed with some heavy-handed commentary about disenfranchisement, but after 82 minutes with this flick, the only thing I wanted to hit was the snooze button.

I had never heard of this film, and it being a New Line release, was confident that the presentation would at least be top-notch. And it was. Too bad the film itself proves unworthy of such classy treatment.

All glitz and no girth, The Purifiers is an empty experience, 'roided up with all the slow-motion kung fu you could ever want and none of the dramatic weight to make you care. The plot is a one-note affair: bad guys chase good guys, fights ensue. We don't really care about the characters because we never get to know them. Aside from a brief conversation in their hang-out spot, there is almost no character development. We know that John is our hero because he gets the most face time, we know that Sol is kind of a douchebag, and we know Moses is definitely a douchebag. The rival gang members dress in funky outfits (dig the neon crosses on The Angels' wifebeaters) and come across more as professional wrestlers than legitimate threats. Those are our players, and once the groundwork is laid (Moses says to go kill The Purifiers), it's like switching on your Xbox and watching the violence unfold.

If you've read my reviews before, you know that I've got absolutely no problem with plot-lite action flicks . Heck, that's one of my favorite genres. All I ask is that the action be entertaining. That request has fallen on deaf ears with The Purifiers, so instead of even a modicum of cool fisticuff mayhem, for the film's mercifully short runtime I had to endure endless, boring combat sequences, flush with every tired recycled fight-scene cliché you can think of: synthesized sound-effects for every punch thrown or attacked dodged, meaningless gymnastics, and, of course, that most abused of stylistic strategies, slow-motion.

At least half of the action is shot in slow-motion, which is an admittedly cool technique when used sparingly. Here it was transparently kitschy. Everyone attacks in slow-motion, and everyone gets punched and thrown into debris in slow-motion. The relatively few unique, acrobatic movies (and there were some) were dulled by this overused, over-punished film tactic.

And when I did see stuff that was new to me, it was flat-out dopey. Take for instance the penultimate battle between our hero and two elite bodyguards armed with blue glowsticks. For some reason, Jobson has the lights doused and the fight take place in the pitch black. We see nothing, except for those stupid glow-sticks, awkwardly moving around until they fall, the lights enigmatically come back on, and the guards lie unconscious under a swinging lamp (cool, a swinging lamp!). Even the usually bankable Final Bad Guy fight was a disappointment, a tedious, drawn-out one-on-one match plagued by the same irritating slo-mo style preceding it. Without interesting fights and an interesting story, there's really nothing left for The Purifiers to do. It's one of the true style-over-substance offerings I've reviewed.

As stated before, this is a New Line disc, so you know the movie is going to look and sound great. And it does. Presented in a crisp 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, The Purifiers looks solid. For all the pissing and moaning I've done about the film, Robson certainly has his moments of capturing some intriguing images, and this transfer augments these scenes well. Strong colors and detailing all around. You'll have your choice between two 5.1 digital tracks—Dolby and DTS—but both sound about the same. Though the discrete surrounds weren't used as aggressively as I would have expected, the fronts take control. When the techno hits, and it will hit hard and often, the mix pounds.

The only extra of note is a director's commentary, where Robson, proud of his film and that's great and all, deconstructs his scenes and tries to add layers to the story. It doesn't work.

Closing Statement

An action film lacking decent action, a garbled statement on post-modern individuality, an over-produced gimmick-fest, The Purifiers is the digital equivalent of a Nutrasweet enema.

The Verdict

The court decrees that the accused make like the film's star and get Lost. (Clever, no?)

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Scales of Justice

Video: 90
Audio: 85
Extras: 60
Acting: 65
Story: 50
Judgment: 65

Perp Profile

Studio: New Line
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• DTS 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
• English
• Spanish
Running Time: 82 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Rated R
• Action

Distinguishing Marks

• Director's Commentary
• Trailers


• IMDb

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