The Purge: Anarchy

By on July 20, 2014
The Purge

Last year’s “The Purge” was an unexpected sleeper horror hit that grossed almost $90 million worldwide – not too shabby for a film that only cost $3 million to make. So, naturally, a sequel was commissioned, resulting in “The Purge: Anarchy,” opening this weekend.

The original was essentially a high-concept home invasion flick, bolstered by two strong leads in Ethan Hawke (“Training Day”) and Lena Headey (“Game of Thrones”), who played two parents put into an unfortunate situation when their son lets a wounded man inside their home.

The man is being hunted down by a group of thugs participating in the titular “Purge,” a night in which everyone worldwide is allowed to vent their frustrations, seek revenge against those who harmed them and generally run wild, as all crimes are effectively legal for twelve hours, including murder.

The concept was a neat idea, but because of the nature of the set-up, we never got to see much more than glimpses of what was really going on beyond the main situation at hand. The new film effectively addresses that by widening the scope into an overview of what’s going on downtown, in the heart of the city, where chaos rules supreme.

Frank Grillo leads a rag-tag group of survivors in "The Purge: Anarchy," with Zoë Soul, Carmen Ejogo, Kiele Sanchez and Zach Gilford. Courtesy of imdb.com

Frank Grillo leads a rag-tag group of survivors in “The Purge: Anarchy,” with Zoë Soul, Carmen Ejogo, Kiele Sanchez and Zach Gilford.
Courtesy of imdb.com

We follow several people, including waitress Eva (Carmen Ejogo, “Alex Cross”) and her family; estranged couple Shane (Zach Gilford, “Friday Night Lights”) and Liz (Kiele Sanchez, Gilford’s actual wife, and star of “The Glades”); and the mysterious loner known as Sergeant (Frank Grillo, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”), as they struggle to make it through the night, often without shelter or a vehicle to help them evade danger.

If the first film was more of a standard home invasion flick, “The Purge: Anarchy” is more like a cross between something John Carpenter might do in his action mode (i.e. “Escape from New York” or “Assault on Precinct 13″) and Walter Hill’s cult classic “The Warriors.”

As with those films, most of the movie is spent trying to get from point A to point B, as the characters come up against heavily-armed thugs roving the streets, typically in gangs. There’s also a military-like presence, though they aren’t there so much to keep the peace as to profit from it in nefarious ways.

This time around, the politics are also much more pronounced, as rebel leader Carmelo (Michael K. Williams, “Boardwalk Empire”) preaches the downside of the “Purge” over the internet to anyone who’ll listen.

Basically, Carmelo sees it as a way for rich people to rid themselves of some of the “excess” population, aka the poor, as those who can’t afford to defend themselves tend to fare the worst.

In other words, the whole movie is sort of like the worst-case scenario of what happens when the 1% rules the roost–the rest of us suffer.

As such, the film almost can’t help but be better than its predecessor, despite the lack of big names onboard. For one thing, the scope is bigger, as is the budget, which clocks in at $9 million. That extra cash shows, as the film is much more expansive in the way it approaches its high-concept idea. In other words, it directly addresses the criticisms of the first film and improves upon the source material considerably. This is just simply a better film, period.

Granted, Williams notwithstanding, the cast is only passable overall and about what you’d expect from a low-budget action movie–and rest assured, this is much more of an action movie than the first one, which was more of a horror movie. So, if you’re expecting stellar performances, you’re looking in the wrong place. But, at the same time, it’s the concept that drew people in the first time around, and in that area, the film delivers.

A group of thugs get their crime on in "The Purge: Anarchy." Courtesy of imdb.com

A group of thugs get their crime on in “The Purge: Anarchy.”
Courtesy of imdb.com

The action is tense, and the film has some interesting twists, one of which involves Dwayne (Edwin Hodge), the man who set into action the sequence of events in the first film, as the wounded man seeking help from the upscale family. I particularly enjoyed the sequence towards the end, which involves some rich people getting up to some “Purge”-style antics, upper-class style, and how that goes horribly awry for them.

That said, this film still doesn’t quite deliver the goods as much as you hope it will in the end. It’s not a bad film, by any means; it’s just that the concept is so inspired that you hope the filmmakers will do more with it than they do.

Writer/director James DeMonaco–who actually wrote the script for the aforementioned “Assault on Precinct 13″ remake a few years back–definitely improves vastly on the first film, no doubt about that. But it could still be better.

I think that maybe, with the whole set-up of the rebel faction raging against the machine in this one established, the next film will do just that, as the rebels gain traction and the stage is set for a bigger revolt next time around with more people involved.

A civil war is brewing, and that–to me at least– will be much more fascinating than what’s going on here. “The Purge: Anarchy” is a decent little action B-movie done in a retro 80’s style that only delivers the goods in a limited fashion, in spurts of inspired insanity, rather than the full-throttle action that an all-out war of the rebels versus the government would give us.

I think a B- is fair enough rating, as it does improve on the original, but honestly, the film would probably warrant a C+ at best if it weren’t for that.

If you liked the first film, you’ll probably like this one even more thanks to the enhanced mayhem and insanity going on. But if your main draw is the concept, you might find yourself wanting a little more when all is said and done.

Hopefully, they’ll get there in the next installment, which, at this point, seems inevitable.

Until then, “The Purge: Anarchy” gets the job done, but only as much as the limited budget–or limited imagination–allows.

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About Mark Trammell

Mark Trammell is the resident entertainment critic at UAB, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where he is also a Graduate Student and does a vid-cast movie review show. He is a life-long fan of films and has a pretty whacked-out, all-over-the-place movie collection that would give most sane people pause. He loves horror movies and Disney flicks and isn't entirely sure there is a difference. He one day hopes to put his money where his mouth is and inflict his own perverse vision on society, entirely so that he can tell people who ask: "If you think you can do better, why don't you make a movie yourself?" to shut up.
 
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