Mark Reviews Movies

The Purge: Anarchy


2 Stars (out of 4)

Director: James DeMonaco

Cast: Frank Grillo, Carmen Ejogo, Zach Gilford, Kiele Sanchez, ZoŽ Soul, Justina Machado, John Beasley

MPAA Rating: R (for strong disturbing violence, and for language)

Running Time: 1:43

Release Date: 7/18/14

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Review by Mark Dujsik | July 17, 2014

For those who did not make the connection between the Purge and a reduction in the unemployment rate in a dystopian United States of the future, The Purge: Anarchy fills in the logical step necessary to make the correlation. The leader of the New Founding Fathers, the extreme right-wing regime in power in this America of 2023, and a complicit media extol the virtues of the Purge, urging people to "release the beast" during the yearly 12-hour period of lawlessness. Meanwhile, on a pirate web broadcast, the leader of an anti-Purge movement explains the true intent of the whole thing: an annual, government-sanctioned genocide of the poor. They cannot afford to defend themselves against roaming gangs, government agents, and wealthy aristocrats who have half a day to hunt them for sport without legal consequences.

As cynical hypotheses about an ideology writ absurd go, it makes sense. That the movie explains it in such black-and-white terms, though, is just the first sign that the sequel has little concern with doing anything too thoughtful with its conceit.

The Purge, of course, was not a thoughtful movie, either, but it at least had the benefit of a moral conundrum for its characters. Their support of the Purge came into question when one of its potential victims took shelter in their home. They faced a choice: Give up a stranger to a murderous gang in order to safeguard their own lives, or protect the stranger at the risk of becoming targets themselves. After spending the entire story decrying the senseless violence of the Purge, the movie resolved the conflict with an onslaught of violence.

The sequel takes the morally hypocritical position of its predecessor's climax as its foundation. Returning writer/director James DeMonaco has established a scenario in which outbursts of violence are not only an inevitability but also a necessity.

The story opens a year after the events of the first movie, and the Purge is still going strong. Hours before the "holiday" commences, Eva (Carmen Ejogo) is preparing to lock down her apartment with her daughter Cali (ZoŽ Soul) and father (John Beasley). Soon after the Purge begins, a paramilitary-like group storms Eva's apartment building and takes her and her daughter captive.

Elsewhere in the city, Shane (Zach Gilford) and Liz (Kiele Sanchez), a married couple on the verge of a separation, are on their way home when they are accosted by a member of a gang wearing face-paint and/or masks. On the trip home, the couple's car breaks down on the freewayóthe result of sabotage by the gang, which proceeds to follow the two as they scurry around downtown looking for sanctuary.

Finally, there's an unnamed man known only as "Sergeant" (Frank Grillo), who is readying himself for the Purge with a bulletproof vest and a small arsenal of guns. He is planning to participate in the event, but he only has one target in mind: a man who ruined his life a year ago. Sergeant takes to the streets in an armored car, and as expected, the three parties come together and must escape the various baddies hunting them.

After the confinement of the one-home setting in the previous movie, the sprawling city here is a logical progression, and despite the larger backdrop, there is still a sense of claustrophobia to this world. Helicopter shots show eerily deserted streets, and a shot inside Sergeant's car watches as a flaming bus passes the intersection he just crossed.

As the characters make their way through this urban wasteland, their movements rely on a block-by-block assessment of the surroundings. Around every corner, there could be a gang with automatic weapons; on every roof, there could be a disgruntled sniper. Down every street might be a semi-truck with a machine gun in the trailer; down every alley and hallway might be a random crime ready to unfold. The movie creates a sinister sense of the unknown.

Once the characters are united, though, the movie becomes a string of firefights that expect us to revel in the bloodshed that results in a fight between "good" and "evil." There are no blurry lines in DeMonaco's view of these events, even as the movie starts by emphasizing a more complex view of this world. Before the Purge begins, the poor are victims of a government's policy of eradication. After it starts, we have the heroes and nameless, faceless hordes of those who have now become bloodthirsty villains for the heroes to mow down with bullets. DeMonaco wants to condemn this culture of violence. In the midst of scene after scene of fights and shootouts containing rousing imagery of close saves and hero shots, it's not a stretch to question his sincerity on the matter.

DeMonaco attempts to justify some of this with a government conspiracy, an armed rebellion, and surreal scenes of members of the upper-class acting with poise as they contemplate vicious deeds. When one of the characters decides to take up arms against the real villains here, she tellingly states that she wants "to purge." Perhaps the double standard of violence is part of DeMonaco's point, but if it is, The Purge: Anarchy doesn't display any awareness of it.

Copyright © 2014 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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