Director: James DeMonaco
Starring: Frank Grillo, Carmen Ejogo, Zach Gilford, Kiele Sanchez, and Zoë Soul
It’s difficult to turn back once someone wielding a weapon screams the phrase “RELEASE THE BEAST”. “The Purge: Anarchy” expands the world introduced in the first “Purge” which mostly composed a tedious home invasion film. This time the depravity of a society that is given the opportunity to commit all manner of crime, including murder, for 12 hours is taken to the streets of Los Angeles. Director James DeMonaco somehow finds restraint, making a film composed with all manner of interesting exploitation inspirations and some keen observations about society yet unfortunately still has difficulties finding a way to play within the boundaries of the rules it creates.
The film follows a few different groups of people a few hours before the start of the annual Purge. Shane (Zach Gilford) and Liz (Kiele Sanchez) are on the brink of a breakup while on their drive home. After an intimidating encounter with some eager Purge participants, the couple’s car curiously breaks down. Eva (Carmen Ejogo) and her daughter Cali (Zoë Soul) are preparing their home, in an apartment complex, for protection. Barricading the doors and trying to ignore the color commentary on the news, their apartment is attacked. These four people, unprepared and hunted, are rescued by a lone protector (Frank Grillo) looking for retribution of his own. Their goal is simple, survive the night.
Writer/Director James DeMonaco moves this sequel into a more socially satirical realm than the first film that was mostly reserved for moments of cheap scares and a violent game of cat and mouse. Expanding the realm to explore how society copes and fails when rules for moral conformity are relinquished creates some interesting avenues of survey. The analysis of the wealthy upper class is the most deliberate; the Purge is portrayed within this class with delusional fascinations of luxury to the extent of an auction for rich families to bond in the thrill of the hunt for humans. The more interesting view comes when DeMonaco presents how society has turned on itself. The film indicates the culmination of aggression towards the controlling social power with displays of attacks against those in positions of influence. Still the poor are defenseless, forced into hiding, and those unwilling to participate are lost in a world which operates on rage. All of them waiting for the Purge to one day find them.
While the narrative offers more stimulating undertones it still has difficulty making sense of the system it establishes. Why aren’t people more prepared? Why are people out on the streets hours before the yearly apocalypse? Yes, this is overthinking the point of the film but it’s too obvious to ignore. If one were going camping it would seem necessary to prepare with kits and supplies, why wouldn’t this logic apply for the yearly Purge Day? The character decisions, on both sides of the assault, are hindered by idiotic judgment calls. It all serves to move the film toward the unsurprising climax, which wastes the depth explored early on.
“The Purge: Anarchy” is filled with genre influences clearly from “Escape from New York” and “Assault on Precinct 13”. These are great films to emulate and this sequel is a definite step ahead of the first “Purge” film. Still the film struggles to maintain the tension of the event and sustain the interesting elements of social commentary.
3.00 out of 5.00