Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 43 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Strong Disturbing Violence, and for Language
Directed by: James DeMonaco
Written by: James DeMonaco
Starring: Frank Grillo, Carmen Ejogo, Zach Gilford, Kiele Sanchez, Zoe Soul
THE PURGE made a big splash in the box office last summer, so much so that a sequel was green lit three days after the its release. However, many people (including myself) took issue that the movie wasted a great premise (crime being legalized for one night a year) on a standard home-invasion movie that was like every other home invasion movie ever made. It seems that writer/director James DeMonaco listened to the complaints, because THE PURGE: ANARCHY is a considerable step up in almost every way. It’s far from a perfect movie, but I enjoyed this twisted little film for the sheer creativity that held my interest from frame one.
THE PURGE: ANARCHY begins two hours before the annual Purge commences. This newly founded holiday legalizes crime (including murder) for 12 straight hours. It’s meant to be a sort of cleansing of the country and allows people to release their darker urges during one blood-soaked night every year. ANARCHY follows a three separate storylines that eventually merge into one. Eva and her daughter Cali hide in their apartment as the night begins and quickly find that their defenses are no match for an army of heavily armed intruders outside. Shane and Liz are a troubled couple who experience car difficulties, which leaves them stranded downtown as the Purging citizens begin wreaking havoc. Finally, there’s Leo who has armored his car, strapped on Kevlar, and armed himself to the teeth in order to get revenge on the man responsible for the death of his son. These characters wind up meeting and struggle to survive as they encounter new dangers with every step.
Much like the first PURGE, the deeper commentary in ANARCHY is completely transparent and delivered in an extreme manner. There’s also a side message about revenge not being the answer to any problem, which has also been seen in plenty of other vigilante stories. One obvious bit of social satire that I liked was the idea of a rebellion brewing on the sidelines as seen in the videos of a Spike Lee lookalike rambling about how corrupt the government is. We never see any of this fully erupt, but it could be an obvious direction to take in THE PURGE 3 (this series has a likely chance of becoming the next SAW or PARANORMAL ACTIVITY franchise). The more tedious bits involve annoying speeches about a citizen’s legal right to Purge. All the viewer needs is one moment that indulged this idea. I got sick of seeing some of these dialogue bits repeated throughout. The almost prayer-like chant that psychopathic wealthy people deliver in the name of the “New Founding Fathers” is also overly silly, which is one factor I didn’t like in the first film.
Frank Grillo is the best actor here and was the only character worth caring about. His motivation and reasoning may be heavily borrowed from Jeff in SAW III (a series that is very much in the same vein as THE PURGE), but Grillo delivers his performance in such a style that makes one wonder how he didn’t wind up as an 80’s action hero. None of the other characters are completely horrendous with one exception: the rebellious teenage Cali. She was aggravating. Part of it is from the terrible delivery of the actress, but part of it really falls on her being a bratty girl. I was rooting for a possibility of a slow, painful death for her from the first scene. Stupid decisions on the behalf of certain characters doesn’t necessarily garner sympathy for these idiots either. One moment involves the married couple trying to hide from a group of vicious bikers and being disgusted at the prospect of spending the night in a dumpster with a bloody corpse. I’m sorry, but if it comes down to hiding in a garbage bin with a dead body for a few hours or being brutally beaten to death myself? I’m picking the first option.
There are plenty of silly and dumb moves in THE PURGE: ANARCHY, but this sequel did a wonderful job of fleshing out this world far better than its predecessor. This time around, the audience gets to see the mayhem breaking out on the street. Little details go a long way. One scene in a quiet district provides a sinister memorable moment involving the hanging corpse of a banker. It only goes to show how many possible stories can be told with this premise of a nationwide period of legalized chaos and bloodshed. I wouldn’t mind seeing a new film in this series every year, if they are all as creative as this one was. Lots of chases, gunfights, and even surprising bursts of violence in seemingly ideal situations make for a movie that kept me entertained in the same way that I enjoy watching a good slasher. The cinematography is remarkably well shot too.
The best stretch of ANARCHY comes in the last third of the film which involves an auction (briefly skimmed in the trailer) and goes straight into MOST DANGEROUS GAME territory. I thoroughly enjoyed this bit and thought the ending was far more satisfying than the lackluster conclusion of the first entry. This second PURGE takes the action away from the confined quarters of a house and throws the viewer straight into an urbanized hell hole. I was interested the whole way through and enjoyed the vicious imagination on display. There are definitely flaws, mainly in some bad characters and worse acting, but I had a good time with this film and would probably enjoy it even more on a second viewing. THE PURGE: ANARCHY feels like a modern Grindhouse classic. It’s delivers on the gory goods. I wouldn’t mind revisiting the world of THE PURGE a third time as this sequel far outdoes the disappointing first entry.