Glasgow in the near future: five gangs have effective rule over the city, and each one protects the inhabitants within their own territory whilst punishing those who invade from outside. When Moses, the leader of the most powerful gang, calls a meeting to suggest a truce between the warring gangs, not all of them agree with his plan to take full control of the city. However, in spurning his offer, the Purifiers find themselves at odds with the other gangs and have to fight them all in order to return home.
The concept of The Purifiers is more than a little dubious, but if the Germans can manage a comedy (Goodbye Lenin!), then perhaps the Scots can make a martial arts film. Or perhaps not. Having seen the film, I can say that at least I was only misguided in my optimism. The Sci-Fi London website’s statement that this is “…a rapid-fire, action-packed thriller that reclaims the visual flair and kinetic thrills of Hong Kong chop-socky flicks, for these sceptr’d isles” seems to display a remarkably weak grasp on reality.
With this film, it’s not so much a case of picking holes in it as finding a way across the gaping abyss that looms at its heart. If you can get past the idea that five gangs, comprised of about five members each, can run riot over an entire city, without guns, then you’ll probably have no issues with the rather feeble attempts to make Glasgow look futuristic by giving underground stations such great names as BLUE ZONE 2, and by making the lead character’s car sound like it is powered by a jet engine. In fact, if this is the case, then you’ll be able to forgive the blatant
theft homage to Walter Hill’s The Warriors, the abject lack of Scottish accents, and perhaps even the use of London’s Chinatown for a scene that had more in common with a slapstick food fight than choreographed action between proper martial artists.
That’s right. The Purifiers features a cast almost exclusively comprised of trained martial artists (the exceptions evidently being Kevin McKidd, Dominic Monaghan and Rachel Grant) and a fight choreographer with less talent than Yuen Woo Ping’s left thumb. The result is a series of boring and occasionally ridiculous fights, not helped in the slightest by excessive slo-mo and sound effects that are more akin to a bitch-slap than a solid punch to the head. The silliness peaks with the scrap between the hero and two of the villain’s minions, involving blue glow-in-the-dark sticks and no lighting.
Perhaps I’m being overly critical. After all, it is a low-budget flick and may even be destined for the kind of cult status reserved for awe-inspiringly dreadful films. In the end, I suspect that the only people that will watch this film are those who are fans of Kevin McKidd and/or Dominic Monaghan, and those with more curiousity than sense. You have been warned.
This review was originally published in Matrix #152 (March/April 2005)