July 21, 2014

Movie Review: The Purge - Anarchy

2013 saw the world introduced to the cinematic universe of The Purge. The movie proved to be a surprise hit and seems to be on the verge of becoming a new franchise. The concept is an interesting one, and if the first film did it's job of teasing us with the idea of purging, this sequel takes us right into the middle of it. It is a moderately entertaining movie, but ultimately does not rise quite as high as the original. At times it seems to be an almost apology for the lack of big picture purging from the first film. This is not really a problem, but I must admit that I enjoyed the tighter focus of the first better.

In case you forgot, the world of The Purge is a future America where a new regime has taken over and instituted this annual event that legalizes all crime for a twelve hour period. The idea is that it is a time where everyone can let out their pent up anger and aggression, focusing it on one day and then going about your normal lives for the rest of the year as a happy and healthy citizen. Of course, we (the audience) know better. There is certainly other things at play here.

Writer/director James DeMonaco never lets a moment go by to remind you that this is all about the haves and the have-nots, cleverly (albeit heavy handedly) playing on the idea of class warfare. This sequel introduces in a more in your face fashion the thought that the government has ulterior motives and is using the Purge to cut down on the poor, the homeless, the unemployed, as a way to improve the good looking numbers of employment rate and low crime.

The Purge: Anarchy takes the action outside of the home confinement of the first movie and into the darkened city streets. It purports to pay off on the concept of the first one by throwing us in with an unlikely group of folks, purgers and those caught outside alike, thrown together to help demonstrate the class strife of this world.

The first folks we meet are the troubled couple of Shane (Zach Gilford, Friday Night Lights) and Liz (Kiele Sanchez, 30 Days of Night: Dark Days). They happen to stumble across a gang of masked soon to be Purgers at the wrong time, their car is sabotaged and they are stuck in the open as the event commences. We also meet Eva (Carmen Ejogo, Alex Cross) and her daughter, Cali (Zoe Soul, Prisoners), a poor family who witness firsthand evidence of government sponsored Purging. Then there is the man known simply as Sergaent (Frank Grillo, Captain America: The Winter Soldier). He is the Purger of or rag tag group of protagonists, a man consumed with thoughts of vengeance but still possessing a sense of humanity.

We watch as this group makes its way through the dark streets of Los Angeles. They look to avoid the roving anarchists, the random Purgers, and worse. We see the the way people react, how the rich will have people rounded up or pay folks for ritualized killings, while the poor and unfortunate go about things from a different direction.

The Purge: Anarchy is not a bad film, it veers more towards action than the horror/thriller aspects of the first. The criticisms of the first are paid off for here with the showing of public killings. Still, I was left unfulfilled. Sure, this group of characters is mildly interesting, but they remain just an odd group forced together to fill the need of multiple viewpoints. It does not seem to really come together. The message is hammered in at multiple turns at the expense of an organically grown plot. Sure, it can lead to interesting discussion, but sometimes subtlety is a good thing.

I enjoyed it enough, but it lacks that something. I am not quite sure what, but it seems to exist on one level while aspiring for something more. The problem is that it reaches in the wrong direction, while the message and its application should be a scalpel, the film reaches for the sledgehammer. Entertaining, intriguing, debate inducing, sure, but really good? Not really, although you may feel the need to watch movies like Escape from New York, The Warriors, or Assault on Precinct 13. Do that.

Mildly Recommended.

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