a critiQal film review The Purge: Anarchy (2014)

Plot: One night per year, the government sanctions a 12-hour period in which citizens can commit any crime they wish - including murder - without fear of punishment or imprisonment. Leo (Grillo), a sergeant who lost his son, plans a vigilante mission of revenge during the mayhem. However, instead of a death-dealing avenger, he becomes the unexpected protector of four innocent strangers who desperately need his help if they are to survive the night.

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After watching The Purge (2013) recently, we weren’t all that impressed with this new horror franchise. A contrived ridiculousness about crime being allowed once a year by the government, even those of us who can see Trump leading us to our doom couldn’t really believe that load of malarkey. Still, if we got past the idea that the basic idea behind the series is stupid, we could see potential for this series, which we hoped was going to be showcased in The Purge: Anarchy.

Unfortunately, after The Purge (2013) let us down by becoming nothing more than an inferior Panic Room (2002), we didn’t hold high hopes for the sequel, The Purge: Anarchy. But, would the usual rule apply to this horror series? Or would this be one sequel that was actually better than the original?

Frank Grillo leads the cast in The Purge: Anarchy. After seeing him in Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), it’s easy to see him in the role of the tough guy. True, it’s a bit odd seeing him having a bit of a heart of gold, but he’s got the hard-as-nails soldier routine down pat. He’s decent enough in the pic, and having this anti hero along for the ride definitely helps amp the film up a bit. This time around, it’s not just your everyday folk, this one has had training, so watch out bad guys!

Unfortunately, he’s really the biggest highlight of The Purge: Anarchy. Carmen Ejogo and Zoe Soul play such weak characters, most of Frank’s time is spent picking them back up again (or, in Zoe’s case, getting her to shut up so they don’t get everyone killed). It verges on the utter ridiculousness, but then, so does the basic plot behind the story, so, eh? What are ya going to do?

The rest of the cast, including the other main members, are basic throwaways in The Purge: Anarchy. Their character development is absolutely nil, despite the film’s attempts to make this about 3 different groups: the Ejogo/Soul mother/daughter group, Frank’s no name tough guy, and another couple, played by Zach Gilford and Kiele Sanchez. These last two are obvious cannon fodder for the flick from the first moment they are on-screen, and do little to dispel that notion – except lasting longer than they have any right to.

Instead of doing another home invasion storyline, The Purge: Anarchy does expand a bit on the original, forcing several “normal” people out on the street through various means. This does let the viewer get a bit of a better taste of the mayhem and carnage that is taking place in the cities. That’s good, as it expands the world of the series a bit, probably so the concept doesn’t get stale.

Unfortunately, The Purge: Anarchy also shows this “perfect” system – which viewers are already having a hard time trying to buy into – isn’t all that perfect. Not only is their now a band of rebels (who don’t seem to be doing much except their own brand of purging), now their are government soldiers out in force. And why? Oh, it seems that not enough people are “purging,” and the government has felt the need to do some “purging” of their own, just to keep the population at the correct level.

This makes the series even worse. Now, the viewer, who has already known the system the whole series is based on doesn’t work, now has confirmation of it. So why is there still this “death night”? And why, after apparently 6 years of this nonsense, haven’t more people retaliated against the system? In fact, even though the system is not working as the government expected, most of the people in the film (aside from this one band of struggling “heroes”), are celebrating this day? Even to the point where the rich (who didn’t seem to have a problem rampaging around in the first film) have taken steps to insure their safety in this film, and even some who have managed to turn the night into a sporting event. Two films into the series, and already the film is contradicting itself. Ugh.

While Frank is the highlight of The Purge: Anarchy, he’s one of the few highlights in this film. With the whole basis behind the films not working out (despite everyone’s seemingly increased enthusiasm for the night), and a smart idea of how the lazy rich could be taking out their own dark desires (which easily could have been a whole movie by itself), it’s pretty much wasted in this film. Instead, this film takes a pretty good setup, and (thanks to it’s inability to make most of its characters worthwhile) turns it into a middle-of-the-road action thriller.

And that’s really what The Purge: Anarchy is. While the first film was middling closed-space-scenario, this sequel sways much more into action thriller territory. Unfortunately, there’s no decent secondary characters to speak of, and Frank Grillo isn’t given the brash cocky attitude or the quippy one-liners normally seen in those types of flicks. So without the quippy one-liners and that attitude (or even a quirky sidekick) what does that leave? An action thriller, yes…but kind of a disappointing one.

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