Starring: Frank Grillo, Carmen Ejogo and Zach Gilford
Directed By: James DeMonaco
Running Time: 103 minutes
Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Are you ready to celebrate the annual Purge? Nearly every tattooed, face painted, vein bulging, rotted teeth maniac featured in the latest offering seems to be. “The Purge: Anarchy” takes us to 2023, a year after the previously featured Purge with a new batch of disposable characters hoping to survive the 12 hours America has made all crimes legal. Out of all the crimes that are now legal, everyone gladly picks up their nearest sharpened tool shed item and freshly polished automatic rifle, and settles on a night of murder. This time around, we’re not confined to an upper middle class home, but instead we’re placed in some rotting downtown urban warfare.
For this second installment, to what I assume will be a never ending franchise until the one that doesn’t make money, we’re introduced to three separate storylines. First off is the young, well-to-do couple, Shane (Gilford) and Liz (Kiele Sanchez). They’re one of those annoying shoppers that wait until the last possible minute to get groceries, but the real kicker is that they’re going through a shaky separation. Bad timing if you ask me. There’s also Eva (Ejogo) and Cali (Zeo Soul), a mother and a daughter just hoping to survive another annual Purge in their decrepit apartment building. Finally there’s Leo (Grillo), a father hoping to avenge his son’s death by dressing all in black and being armed to the teeth like Frank Castle. I’m sure you’ve already pieced together that they’ll eventually all meet-up, but the real unpredictable fun comes when they have to stick together to survive the night.
While the last “Purge” felt like someone left the “Panic Room” on simmer, the latest entry goes head on into dismemberments, bullet riddled bodies, gore and urban combat. It seems like one of the director’s favorite cult classics might have been “The Warriors” as we roam from one outlandish incident to another. Despite our characters quietly lurking, the film’s pace seems to be in top form as it finds clever ways to keep the anarchy engaging and absorbing. The plight of our characters isn’t an emotional investment, more than it’s a grotesque investment in the joy of watching another kill or be killed scenario.
Meanwhile, the director has still failed to create a working theme representing class warfare and race equality. He seems to believe the audience is too dense to pick up on the already implied subtleties so he proceeds to insert poorly written dialogue into actor’s mouth and further disrupts the flow with characters talking over obvious visual cues. Early on we’re introduced to a AK-47 toting pacifist who’s obviously the 2023 embodiment of Che Guevara who will obviously be making an appearance, but is given nothing of relevance to say. In more capable, demented hands, one could easily assemble a thoughtful good time.
As pure testosterone fueled savagery that’s aesthetically pleasing to the eyes, this “Purge” sequel works. As a potential cult classic with social and political commentary, it fails once again. Demarco may want to consider bringing on a second person to help him with the next “Purge” movie if it’s going in the direction I believe it’s going. If he’s hoping to hunt down some bigger issues, he may find out he’s unskilled enough to tackle them. He may just want to stick to blood and guts in poor taste and quenching American moviegoers never-ending thirst for sadism.