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Category:    Home > Reviews > Action > Science Fiction > Martial Arts > The Purifiers

The Purifiers


Picture: B-     Sound: B     Extras: B-     Film: B-



A new cycle of Science Fiction/Action films has surfaced recently where it is the near future, one that is part of a more technologized and controlled society, one that is closer to a police state than anyone in the film seems to acknowledge.  At least the filmmakers do not always seem as conscious of this condition as they should.  Alex Proyas’ film of I, Robot (2004) has some of these elements, but the cycle began with the Christian Bale film Equilibrium (2002), which was explicitly about a police state.  Now, Richard Jobson’s The Purifiers (2004, rated R) makes its way to DVD after getting hardly any U.S. theatrical release.


At first, one could think with a name like that, this could be a new-generation version of old action team shows like The Avengers and take-offs like The Persuaders, The Professionals or other endless imitators.  Instead, this film wants to cross Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange (1971) with Walter Hill’s The Warriors (1979), which is ironic since Tony Scott may remake Hill’s film and Scott’s style is very Kubrick-influenced.  Jobson has at least beaten him to that.


The near-future world here is again in the U.K. (shot on location on Scotland) and since the authorities supposedly cannot control the gangs, each gang has taken their own section of the city to be theirs.  The Purifiers are the one really good gang, a sort of Guardian Angels without the history and different kind of position.  When most of the gangs are being brought together by a darker force to try to take over the city, the gang that needs to be eliminated is The Purifiers.  Like Hill’s Warriors, they have to survive and figure out what they will do, but this will require a plan and plenty of Tae Kwon Do.


The film is derivative throughout, but in an interesting way for a change that shows the filmmakers love the genres they imitate.  The most interesting thing about the film for genre fans outside of Dominic Monaghan leading a cast of very interesting and well-cast unknowns is how the fight scenes are handled.  To avoid an obvious choreographed look, a very interesting slow motion approach is taken throughout the film and one that does not try to imitate John Woo much.  There is almost no digital work, no bullet time, no people doing sudden not-so-hidden wire running into the air and the martial arts are taken more seriously than in any such genre film we have seen in years.


I also like the use of split screen and the spirit of the piece.  As far as women are concerned, this is a far cry from the way women are shown in Kubrick’s masterpiece, being more able-bodied and liberated in an Avengers (TV, not feature film) way.  The women may not be as totally potent as the women who fight in Paul Verhoeven films, but unlike most of the action genre lately, these women do not have to be manly or masculinized to be fighters.  They do not sell out their femininity, which makes their conflicts with other men and each other a major highlight of the film.  Great costumes all around, especially for the low budget.


The anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image far outperforms the lame pan and scan option, especially in the fine way the fight scenes have been choreographed.  It first seems that this would have the look of most films that gut out their color, especially in this genre, but cinematographer John Rhodes suddenly complements the fights with a more realistic and interesting use of color than expected.  Well, it turns out this was shot in digital High Definition video (1,080i type) and is one of the best looking such feature film projects we have seen to date produced that way.  Though detail can be limited in some of the shots, this is a pleasant surprise and not as stylized as the likes of the later Star Wars installments or Robert Rodriguez’s Sin City.  The sound is here in its original Dolby Digital 5.1 and more effective DTS 5.1, which is one of the best soundtracks we have heard from a DVD release this year.  The sound has been re-EQed for home theaters, something New Line has a good reputation for.  The choice of music by The Doves, Soul Savers, Heckle & Jive and former Rock band member Jobson himself is interesting as well.


Extras include DVD-ROM weblinks, the original theatrical trailer, New Line trailers, and an audio commentary by Jobson that is very interesting.  He is well spoken and we should all hope he gets to do more films.  In the meantime, be sure to catch The Purifiers.  You will be pleasantly surprised.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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