Directed by: James DeMonaco.
Written by: James DeMonaco.
Starring: Frank Grillo (Sergeant), Carmen Ejogo (Eva Sanchez), Zach Gilford (Shane), Kiele Sanchez (Liz), Zoë Soul (Cali), Justina Machado (Tanya), John Beasley (Papa Rico), Jack Conley (Big Daddy), Noel Gugliemi (Diego), Castulo Guerra (Barney), Michael K. Williams (Carmelo), Edwin Hodge (The Stranger), Keith Stanfield (Young Goul Face).
There’s no mistake about it – The Purge Anarchy is kind of a stupid movie. Yes, it tries to have a political message about class warfare, but if I recently complained that some of the otherwise great Snowpiercer contains dialogue that is a little too on the nose on the subject, The Purge Anarchy beats you over the head with its message – oftentimes having scenes that serve no narrative purpose at all other than to literally sermonize to the audience (everything Michael K. Williams says, which still somehow works, probably because Michael K. Williams is wonderful in everything). The same was true of the original Purge movie last year – which had this political content, but after a while pretty much abandoned it in favor of making a home invasion horror movie (until the final scenes bring it back again). Yet, like the original film, I have to say that perhaps in spite of my better judgment, I liked The Purge Anarchy – at least far more than I probably should. The film is dumb, yet it works.
We are 9 years into the future. The New Founding Fathers of America have taken over, and their crime prevention plan – which apparently works brilliantly – is that once a year, for 12 hours, all crime – including murder – is legal. This allows everyone to get all their aggression and anger out in one 12 hour block, and keeps everyone busy for the rest of the year. And hell, if a bunch of poor people, who cannot afford to protect themselves, happen to die, who cares? What do they contribute to society anyway? Nothing.
The movie opens shortly before the annual Purge is about to begin. We see Sergeant (Frank Grillo) preparing to go out for the night – but unlike other purgers, he seems to have a specific plan of revenge. There is Eva Sanchez (Carmen Ejogo), a waitress with a sick father and a teenage daughter (Zoe Soul) – and live in a rundown apartment building. Then there is a divorcing couple Shane (Zach Gilford) and Liz (Kiele Sanchez) whose car breaks down – probably sabotaged by the creepy gang they run into in a parking lot) and are trapped downtown instead of being safely locked away. For reasons too complex (and yet banal) to explain, Sergeant ends up saving Eva, Cali, Shane and Liz are agrees to get them to safety, before he does what he needs to do. But that gang who sabotaged Shane and Liz’s car seems to be following them – as does a transport truck full of what appears to be soldiers, who Sergeant has angered. It’s going to be a long night.
The original Purge was made for only a few million – and its budget limitation showed, as it limited the action to a single house, instead of showing the wider world outside. Because of that films success, the budget is higher this time, and so it allowed writer-director James DeMonaco more of a chance to show everything he wants. The film certainly does show more – and is even more violent than the first film, yet it still manages to be more creepy and disturbing than gory.
I’m not sure why The Purge Anarchy works as well as it does – but it does. The visual are dark and grimy, the performances are good in their limited way (after all, how much character development can really go on when you’re essentially constantly fighting to stay alive). Yes, the allegory in the film is crude and I don’t really see how American is going to descend quite this far in just 9 years. Yet the film works. It kept me involved, it scared and disturbed me. Most modern horror movies – especially ones from mainstream Hollywood are cookie cutter and dull. Despite all of its flaws, The Purge Anarchy is neither of those things. Yeah, it’s dumb. But it works.