Director: James DeMonaco
MPAA Rating: R
In the near future, we live in a country that allows us to commit whatever heinous acts of violence we want, and it’s called “The Purge.” This ritual creates a better place to live, allowing us to get out all of our aggression in one fell swoop on an annual basis.
While this concept is a compelling one, and should in theory make for an entertaining horror film, the first film in this series, The Purge, proved to be little more than a home-invasion thriller. Now, a year later, director James DeMonaco aims to show us the movie we all wanted out of the first one. However, after seeing The Purge: Anarchy, I’m still left wanting more from the series.
Anarchy follows the stories of five individuals who happen to be stuck out in the streets during the annual purge and band together in order to survive the onslaught of psychopaths, rich people, and government workers who are attempting to murder them. It all plays out like a boring version of The Warriors except with more unnecessary set pieces and no interesting characters. If they had stuck with this formula instead of also adding in Surviving the Game along with its overt social commentary it would play way better. Where the first film wasn’t doing enough with the material, this one is doing entirely too much.
Naturally, a film that revolves around a government allowing its people to do anything they want for 24 hours would be a perfect way to showcase what could happen if the Tea Party got in bed with the 1% and took over the nation. The problem is the film takes these ideas and repeatedly bashes you over the head with them until you’re praying for this purge to be over with more than the characters in the film are.
At an early point in the film, we hear the booming alarms that indicate the purge has begun. This cues a montage of all the dirty, nasty people who plan on partaking in the festivities gearing up and prepping to raise some hell. This sequence proves to be the best looking of the film and consists of a completely different tone than the rest of the movie. Unfortunately, the survivors only encounter the same two gangs over and over again for nearly the entire length of the film, with the exception of an underground subway scene and the Surviving the Game moment.
The larger scope of The Purge: Anarchy makes for a lot more action than the sequel, which pulls away from the more intimate horror elements and opts for more guns and a higher body count. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing when taking the plot into consideration, however the overuse of spotty CG blood took the shock out of some of the more violent scenes. For a film that focuses so heavily on the excesses of man, it wasn’t very violent or excessive.
Frank Grillo as the unlikely hero, Sergeant, is the most interesting of the characters; that is to say he’s not completely annoying. He’s not bringing the same amount of gravitas that Ethan Hawke (who starred in the first film) can carry, but it’s a serviceable performance. All the characters feel flat, and while there’s an attempt to give each of them a backstory, much of it just seems like padding. There’s an entire subplot involving the father of one of the survivors, which serves no purpose other than to reinforce the fact that rich people are evil and creepy too; they just do it indoors.
This marks a small step forward for The Purge series, however it’s still not as interesting as the concept of the purge itself. Anarchy tries to be entirely too deep and contemplative than it needs to be. The viewer can easily draw the parallels without needing to have Omar from The Wire to spell it out for us. Maybe by the time The Purge: Revolution (or whatever they’ll call it) is released, the kinks will be worked out, but it’s not quite there yet.