It was hard not to be a little bit disappointed with The Purge, which took a brilliant and totally evocative concept and turned it into a fairly generic home invasion movie.
I enjoyed it, don’t get me wrong, I just expected so much MORE from a movie about all crime – including murder – being completely legal for 12 hours.
Of course, hindsight is indeed 20/20, and in retrospect it was a good thing that the concept wasn’t mined for all it was worth right out of the gate, because it left a whole lot of room for a sequel.
By not blowing his proverbial load all at once, writer/director James DeMonaco created a world that we all wanted to see so much more of, and more is precisely what’s on the menu with this first follow-up.
Once again written and directed by DeMonaco, The Purge: Anarchy takes the madness outside the confines of a home, showing what Purge night looks like on the mean streets of LA. Rather than focusing on a single family, the sequel introduces three totally different groups of people all at once, each of them serving to explore a different aspect of Purge night.
First up we’ve got a young mother, her daughter and her elderly father, who live together in a small apartment. They’re pretty damn broke, you see, with not much other than a small handgun to defend themselves from the outside evil.
And then there’s Shane and Liz, a young couple who have drifted apart from one another, and are on the verge of a breakup. Staying out a bit too late on Purge night, they find themselves fending for their lives when their car breaks down in a Purge-heavy area.
And finally we have a man who simply goes by the name ‘Sergeant,’ who might as well go by another name; Punisher. A badass dude with big ass guns and an equally badass car, Sergeant is using this year’s Purge to take revenge on the man who killed his son, providing us with an insight into a completely different side of the titular night.
Though their stories are separate in the early going, it’s not long before all the characters join forces and work together to survive the night, a joint effort that comprises the bulk of the film’s run-time.
If you found yourself in the group of people who were disappointed by The Purge, then I can assure you that The Purge: Anarchy was made for you. Upping the chaos on every single level, this is one sequel that truly lives up to its title, coming off like DeMonaco’s answer to all those who bashed the first movie for wasting such a rich concept.
Bodies literally litter the streets in The Purge: Anarchy, with downtown LA reduced to one massive crime scene. Flaming buses fill the streets, bodies are hung up on display, masked biker gangs roam free looking for victims and traps are even set up to capture weary travelers. In a word, it’s complete anarchy, and DeMonaco doesn’t hold back from showing us absolutely everything we were hoping to see in the budding franchise’s first outing.
In addition to the sheer spectacle of it all, and the introduction of several new elements which add to the overall Purge mythology that will likely be explored for many years to come, the star of the show here is no doubt Frank Grillo’s Sergeant, who serves as the action hero of what is essentially a bloody action movie. Channeling his inner Frank Castle, Grillo is a skull-adorned t-shirt away from being the Punisher, and his revenge story and total badassery are without question the high point of the film.
Unfortunately, while The Purge: Anarchy is at its best when Grillo’s character is the center of attention, it’s at its worst when anyone else is, as nearly all of the other characters are far too annoying and irritating to ever really care about. It’s not that you want to see them die, as you do kind of come to feel for them, but they’re just so damn obnoxious, coming off like annoying dogs that latch themselves onto Sergeant’s leg and constantly beg him to save them. It gets old real quick, and if there’s any major downside to the film it’s definitely a lack of characters that you don’t want to punch in the face.
Another issue this action/horror hybrid suffers from is being a bit bloated, running a little too long and perhaps packed with a few too many ideas. A couple of the side-plots present in the film feel like they could’ve been turned into their own Purge sequels, as they kind of feel crow-barred into the story and ultimately don’t end up serving much purpose. It’s as if DeMonaco had one too many ideas and decided to use them all at once rather than spreading them out over future sequels, the latter of which probably would’ve been the wiser idea.
One of the great things about the central idea of The Purge is that it provides ample opportunity for social commentary, and Anarchy is loaded with it – even if it’s a bit one-note. DeMonaco uses the concept this time around to say some things about the different class systems in American society, as well as our government, and I personally dug all that stuff. It’s heavy-handed, for sure, and will likely turn off many, but I always appreciate some good old fashioned social commentary being infused into movies. Eat the rich, and all that jazz.
Despite its flaws and inherent silliness, The Purge: Anarchy (or as I like to call it, The Purge: Action Movie) is more or less the movie we all wanted The Purge to be, and for that I respect it. Ultimately, it’s not badass enough to be a badass action flick, too silly to be a truly effective piece of social commentary and not horror-y(?) enough to really be considered a horror movie, but it’s entertaining, and that’s really all it needs to be.
It’s a far better use of the concept than The Purge was, and a decent action flick that’s loaded with gun violence and headed by one of the genre’s most badass heroes to date. While I’m glad that The Purge was the movie that it was, The Purge: Anarchy is the movie it should’ve been. And really, what more can you ask for than that?
The Purge seems primed and ready to be the next annual franchise, like Saw and Paranormal Activity before it, and I’m all for that. The possibilities truly are endless, and I love the idea of using each sequel to tell totally different stories, rather than continuing or dragging any of them out. If I have any request from the next one it’s that it be more of a horror film than an action flick, though my ass will be in that seat either way.
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