The Purge: Anarchy (2014)
As you may have guessed by my redux review of the original, The Purge: Anarchy was next on my list. As I said, I liked the idea of The Purge, just got a bit frustrated with the execution. Now it’s Anarchy‘s turn, with its promise to widen the scope of the annual purge and not have it devolve into the same “home invasion” bullshit we’ve all seen countless times before.
“Couldn’t find any quotes.”
Purge night 2023. We join a group of five people all with different motivations but share a common goal: to survive. Frank Grillo plays a mysterious man, armed to the teeth with Purge-ready weapons, as he cruises the empty streets with a very specific target in mind. As he makes his way through the city, he rescues mother and daughter Eva and Cali (Carmen Ejogo and Zoë Soul) and the gang soon pick up two new members in the form of desperate couple Shane and Liz (Zach Gilford and Kiele Sanchez) and on the promise of help to get to his target, Grillo’s stranger must get them across town to safety, which turns out to be no mean feat.
People (myself included) complained that the first Purge was too limited, setting the action in one house. Writer-director James DeMonaco clearly thought so too, so now we see entire areas of the city in Purge mode, with patrolling masked thugs and any number of nasty things happening on the streets. It feels like a proper raising of the stakes and that’s to be commended in the “same but different” world of horror sequels. I actually cared a little more for our bunch of survivors this time round. Grillo is definitely the MVP here, playing well, pretty much The Punisher, complete with mobile arsenal and souped up vehicle. He still affords the character some nice humanising moments however, balancing out the cartoonishly badass bits. Carmen Ejogo and Zoë Soul are the beating hearts of the film, with a genuinely sympathetic back story involving Eva’s elderly father. Estranged couple Shane and Liz are a bit on the bland side, their purpose to be to get to Shane’s sister to inform her that they’re splitting up. Not sure why a phone call wouldn’t suffice, but whatever. Interesting new element is Michael K. Williams’ Carmelo, an outspoken anti-Purge and anti-New Founding Fathers revolutionary who leads an underground army determined to take the NFFA down. He’s good, but isn’t in it much. I suspect his role will increase in the telegraphed third film where it looks like his forces will meet the government head on.
I used the phrase “horror sequel” in the paragraph above, but I used it as this film being a sequel to a horror, not a continuation of the genre. The Purge: Anarchy isn’t a horror film in the strictest sense. It’s an action thriller with jump scares. This may put you off, but let’s not forget how weak the scare sauce was in the first one. It’s evolved into a B movie and a damn entertaining one at that. That’s not to say there aren’t bits that are unsettling. Many scenes are pretty intense. Anarchy is about escalation. There are motorbike gangs, Gatling gun trucks and any number of psychos prowling the streets and it’s fucking great stuff. We find out more about the New Founding Fathers, but they remain a scary, shady organisation. As with the first, it’s the details that make it work. Camped out snipers on rooftops, traps laid throughout the streets and gangs roaming to pick up stragglers so that rich people can butcher in the safety of their homes. It doesn’t shy away from political allegory either. I mean, when you have a bearded redneck type, clutching a shotgun and screaming about his rights, you know this isn’t the smartest approach to satire, but at least it’s there in some capacity. Like in the original, there are also parallels with the rich/poor divide, which in this film we get to see from the poorer perspective.
“Yeah, I could probably find some, but it’s hot. Fuck you.”
I don’t have many bad things to say about the film. The dialogue is a little sloppy and I could have done with Carmelo’s resistance have had a little more of a presence, but I think that’s about it. It’s hokey and grotty, but it is a B movie after all. I enjoyed it immensely. You can look this film in two ways: 1) it realises the potential of the original’s premise or 2) it’s a damn good Punisher movie that doesn’t feature the “proper” Marvel comic character. I’ve found a new pet franchise to follow. I’m hoping it doesn’t pull a [Rec] (my previous pet horror franchise) on me and go completely off the rails for its third part.