The Purge: Anarchy, a sequel to last year’s The Purge, takes audiences into the bloody Los Angeles streets during the night of “The Purge.” It’s a time when all crime is legal and you’re allowed to do anything you want. Got a weapon? You’re free to use it as long as it falls within the regulations.
The Purge films posit an intriguing, terrifying premise that could fully serve a successful series if Blumhouse Productions plays its cards right. It tested the waters first with a home invasion plot in The Purge. While I liked the film, I will admit there are some clunky moments and it works best in its set-up and finale. For The Purge: Anarchy, I feel like we’re getting an “open world” video game this time as it shakes off the shackles of The Purge‘s claustrophobic nature and opens up the canvas.
Writer-director James DeMonaco gets it right this time with a plot that carries shades of ’70s and ’80s action-thriller fare like Assault on Precinct 13, Death Wish and The Running Man. Yeah, that’s a pretty cool equation right? I rather enjoyed it, even if DeMonaco fumbles some of the characters.
Like The Purge, some slasher movie principles are called upon, but this time there’s an added political layer to the story: There’s the (exhausted) resistance force subplot – lead by Michael K. Williams’ Carmelo – that has had enough of “The Purge.” Further, we find out the “Founding Fathers” have introduced a new threat on “Purge” night (which is much more welcome than the “resistance” storyline and adds to the chaos).
Yes, there are threats a-plenty and they mount against Frank Grillo’s “Sergeant” – a man who uses the evening to seek revenge for the death of his son. Dressed all in black, armed to the teeth and driving one mean mother of a car, he prowls downtown Los Angeles’ streets in an effort to find the man responsible for Sergeant’s pain and suffering.
Grillo continues to be a force of nature. He was great in The Grey and in this year’s Captain America: Winter Soldier and he works well in this film playing what is, essentially, The Punisher. Hell, he looks the part and plays “hardened, haunted soldier” well. But Sergeant is a good man at heart and he ultimately takes on a few stragglers in his journey. He rescues Eva and Cali – a mother and daughter – from certain death and encounters Shane and Liz, a couple whose car break down before commencement of “The Purge.”
The weak link of the group is the shoddily-written Shane (Zach Gilford), a character who is seemingly there to point out the obvious. When a group of masked baddies shows up, he’s there to remind us “it’s those bad guys from before!” And when they all spy a truck that was seen posing a threat earlier, Shane takes a dramatic beat then tells us “it’s that bad truck from before!” Yes, we get it, Shane. Thank you…now run, you idiot.
While The Purge: Anarchy is certainly entertaining enough in its telling of Sergeant’s story as he and his group outwit snipers, motorcycle-riding fiends and dudes driving cars that look like they’re straight out of Mad Max, the film does well giving us “bigger picture” stuff. We see how money and self-sacrifice plays a significant part in the “The Purge.” There’s further emphasis on how the rich get their rocks off of eliminating the poor. The film also turns its gaze on how unsuspecting family drama can get widely out of hand when guns are involved. These little vignettes that pepper Sergeant’s trek from point A to point B serve this Purge film well.
There are some fun surprises for astute Purge fans, and, if you happened to take part in last year’s Purge-inspired maze put on by Blumhouse here in Los Angeles, you’ll see that it paved the way for one pivotal scene in this film.
The Purge: Anarchy is worth a look. It’s driven more by action than horror, and, you don’t need to see the first film to dive into this chapter – if that’s something you’re concerned about. All the information you need about this world is given to you here. And I dig this world – not to sound weird – it’s becoming more and more fully realized and I think there are some interesting stories you can tell. Hopefully, the series – if it becomes one – will just keep on improving as it goes.