Frank Grillo stars in the follow-up to last year's horror-thriller hit The Purge, The Purge: Anarchy! Is the sequel an improvement over the original or does it fail to deliver? 411's Jeffrey Harris checks in with his full review!
Directed By: James DeMonaco Written By: James DeMonaco Runtime: 103 minutes MPAA Rating: Rated R
Sergeant - Frank Grillo Eva Sanchez - Carmen Ejogo Shane - Zach Gilford Liz - Kiele Sanchez Cali - Zoe Soul Tanya - Justina Machado Papa Rico - John Beasley Big Daddy - Jack Conley Carmelo - Michael K. Williams The Stranger - Edwin Hodge
The Purge was made for a relatively low budget, and did very well. Therefore, a sequel was basically a no brainer for the studio. And thus, here is The Purge: Anarchy. Taking place likely a year or so after the annual Purge from the last film, the story of Anarchy explores a new set of characters in an unknown city. If you remember my review of the first film, I hated it. I thought it was a poorly done B-horror movie with awfully written characters and a lame, unbelievable premise. Now, I will give director James DeMonaco credit because some of my problems with the first film were addressed. Anarchy does expand and build upon the premise and world established in the first film. The plot is no longer confined to a single household. Most of the film is set out in the open streets as citizens make it open season on each other.
The new story follows the impoverished Eva Sanchez (Ejogo) and her daughter Cali (Soul). They live in the projects and it appears their building has been targeted for elimination by black ops military types. When they are being dragged to their execution, a wandering loner who is out to purge (Grillo) reluctantly decides to rescue them. The loner is simply out to commit a revenge killing on the man responsible for his sonís death. He is not a bad guy. He just cannot let go of the fact that the man who let his son go is free. The loner chooses to protect Eva and Cali; but a poor married couple whose relationship is on the rocks, Shane (Gilford) and Liz (Sanchez), snuck into his car. Shane and Liz got stuck downtown after some hooligans sabotaged their car. The lonerís souped-up, armored vehicle was damaged by the gatling gun of the boss of the military types, Big Daddy (Conley). Eva promises to get the loner a new car from her friend Tanya (Machado) if he safely gets them all to her friendís place. Unfortunately, malevolent parties are still pursuing the group, and it seems that nowhere in the city is safe.
Again, there are some improvements made in Anarchy over the original. The world of this franchise has been enlarged since it is not isolated to a single home in a little suburban gated community. There is now an expanded subplot that was hinted at in the ending credits for the first film, with an organized uprising against the government and the Purge led by Carmelo (Williams). The story also presents ideas on how banks and financial institutions handle the Purge night. Unfortunately, it does not fix how immeasurably hokey this premise is. The film seems to underline even more how the rich prey on the poor. The Purge is really just a fancy form of legalized government ethnic cleansing, and itís executed in a goofy, clunky, and awkward fashion.
The dialogue and stupidity of the characters that was so incessantly annoying in the first film has not really been fixed. Granted, there is only one really annoying kid this time in Cali, instead of the two airheads of the family from the first film. Take Shane and Liz for instance. Why would they go all the way across downtown to get some groceries on Purge night? If downtown is the most dangerous area of the day to be around, especially on Purge nightÖthen stay home! There is not an organic, natural reason for why these characters are where they are. Oh, and did I mention that Shane and Liz are separating? The dialogue painfully drags out this issue as if it is not painfully obvious; and then Liz mechanically spells it out for the audience. A separated couple is becoming one of the most overused and annoying conventions of all time. Of course, during the story the couple will regret their separation and want to stay together. It is completely ridiculous.
There are two twists later on in the film that are incredibly predictable. One moment especially feels completely and utterly off and wrong tonally. The villain of this story does a predictably bad Evil Gloating scene that ends exactly how you would expect. One character from the first film does appear for a brief appearance in the sequel. If the franchise continues, I imagine this character will be a continuing thread throughout the films.
In some ways, The Purge reminds me of the Saw franchise. They are cheap violence-fests with a sense of being ongoing sagas that are sprinkled with morality play ideas. I imagine some fans and audiences will really go for that. The Purge: Anarchy is not as bad as the first film, but it is still really not that good.
The 411: The Purge: Anarchy is an improvement over its predecessor. Frank Grillo is a great actor and a much better, compelling character to anchor the story around. However, the story, premise, dialogue, and characters are still immeasurably goofy and awkward. If you like The Purge, you will probably like this film. It is violent and dark, but not especially gory like the Saw films. If you prefer something stronger from lower-budget horror/thriller fare, it is probably not for you.