Film Review – The Purge: Anarchy
The Purge: Anarchy
I re-watched last year’s The Purge on HBO recently and was immediately reminded of what drove me so crazy about it the first time around. Outside of the fact that it ultimately boiled down to a run-of-the-mill home invasion flick, therefore mostly excusing its admittedly intriguing premise, the characters are an outright bore. Call me nuts but I have a difficult time rooting for a family who have the combined charisma of a dust mite. Despite nearly universal critical snubbing and a huge box office drop once this negative word spread, here we are a mere year later with The Purge: Anarchy. Did writer/director James DeMonaco (who returns for this rushed sequel) learn anything from his last go-around? Well, at least he went outside this time.
For those unfamiliar, The Purge series takes place in a near future where all crime is declared legal for a 12 hour block each year, allowing citizens an opportunity to “cleanse” themselves without fear of repercussion. The movie opens with some laughable statistics indicating the yearly purge has halted crime almost completely and made unemployment nearly obsolete. How, you ask? Well what better way to get your kicks than picking off the homeless like your own personal game of Duck Hunt.
Anarchy begins roughly 2 and a half hours before festivities (?) are set to begin. We’re introduced to a number of characters, all of whom probably have names. Ok ok, I’ll do my research..
We have Eva (Carmen Ejogo), a hard-up waitress with a heart of gold, struggling to care for both her daughter and dying father. Next are Shane and Liz (Friday Night Lights‘ Zach Gilford and holy shit, is that Nikki from Lost?!), an embittered couple on their way to visit family/break the news of their impending divorce. Finally, there’s the unnamed vigilante (IMDB lists him simply as “Sergeant”), the only one of the group who sets out to actively participate in the purge rather than avoid it. Don’t you worry, though, he has his reasons.
Shane and Liz’s car breaks down shortly before The Purge is set to begin and find themselves stranded on the shady streets of Anytown, USA at the worst possible time. A raid of Eva’s apartment complex soon sends her and her daughter out into the unknown as well. Fortunately, “Sergeant” is armed to the teeth and reluctantly decides to help all these walking targets. And on and on and on.
There are some interesting ideas floating around in The Purge: Anarchy, such as a group of blood-thirsty millionaires who auction off the opportunity to hunt and dismember the less fortunate while fully protected in their mansions. The Wire‘s Michael K. Williams turns in an interesting (if tragically under-utilized) performance as Carmelo, a Black Panther-esque protester who warns of the depraved consequences of such an event. And for all of the unintentional silliness that ensues*, Frank Grillo (the unnamed sergeant) maintains an air of mystery that keeps you invested almost in spite of yourself.
DeMonaco further expounds upon the consequences of his outlandish premise but without any pizzazz or inventiveness. The movie is drained of all color and personality. Minus the exceptions noted above, we don’t care about any of these people and he gives us no reason to. The production is cheap enough that it will inevitably make its money back and warrant another sequel, though, so maybe third time’s a charm?
*I can’t recall a single other time in which the death of a character we’re ostensibly supposed to care about received such an uproarious laugh from an audience.