The Purge: Anarchy (2014)
Editor’s Notes: The Purge: Anarchy opens in wide release today, July 18th.
The Purge (2013) introduced an intriguing concept: For twelve uninterrupted hours, all crime is legal – even murder. Sounds fascinating, right? The film turned into a generic home-invasion thriller with light economic commentary. The Purge suffered due to the limited scope. A terrific concept with great potential was dangled in front of the audience and snatched away by placing the entire film inside one house.
The Purge: Anarchy opens up the world by placing the chaos inside downtown Los Angeles. The film opens with the character introductions we’ve seen in the trailers. Sergeant (Frank Grillo) is out to exact revenge. Eva (Carmen Ejogo) and Cali (Zoe Soul) form a helpless mother/daughter combo, saved by a timely run-in with Sergeant. Shane (Zach Gilford) and Liz (Kiele Sanchez) round out the team as a couple on the verge of splitting up. These relationships hardly matter in the long run. Their sole purpose is to deliver emotional payoffs through the film but they fall flat. The character introductions are exposition heavy. It seems silly to nitpick exposition in a film like this but James DeMonaco leaves zero room for interpretation. (Director/Writer)
The Purge: Anarchy flirts with making a statement on gun violence in America, class systems, healthcare and various social statements.
The Purge: Anarchy flirts with making a statement on gun violence in America, class systems, healthcare and various social statements. This film isn’t subtle and it doesn’t need to be subtle. When The Purge starts there are quick cuts of gun-toting citizens celebrating their love for guns and violence. The audience learns that the poor people are the primary targets for the rich. When The Purge: Anarchy toys with making a statement; it gets side tracked by lifting scenes from films like The Warriors and The Running Man. An inconsistently entertaining second and third act deflate the entertaining first act. It’s unfortunate that the film lulls when the actual purge starts.
The audience must work hard to suspend disbelief during this film. This is masked behind heavy exposition and shortcuts aimed at excusing actions taken and to move along the story. Example - There’s a scene where a Road Warrior-style vehicle speeds along with men firing heavy machine guns and flamethrowers -A group of helpless citizens run from completely safe, undiscovered hiding spots so the vehicle of death can mow them down in wicked style. It’s a nasty scene that will appease the bloodthirsty genre fans. The scene will frustrate any viewer that will beg the question, “Why did they just do that?” Some will mutter, “Switch your brain off and have a good time.” That’s a poor excuse for enjoying a bad film.
There are some positive takeaways in this film. Scattered through the film are some seriously badass crews. There is a military style crew that purges with little resistance. There is a crew of mask-wearing misfits that drives around in a van along with motorbikes. The crews conveniently arrive wherever our antagonists run. Their method of finding them is later addressed and it borders on ridiculous.
Grillo solidifies his status as a terrific actor and a man born to be in action films.
Grillo solidifies his status as a terrific actor and a man born to be in action films. He first arrived on my radar in Joe Carnahan’s bone-chilling survival drama, The Grey. Grillo impressed audiences recently in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. If MTV gave away an award for “Best Hair in an Action Film” he would be among the finalists. He carries himself like a modern day cowboy, even to the point where he has no name in this film. He’s a poster boy for the anti-hero we tend to enjoy on the big screen. His charisma oozes off the screen, he’s truly in his own film here.
Grillo’s strengths are overshadowed by the weaknesses of the supporting cast. Sergeant and Cali have a bizarre, forced divide between them. One moment Sergeant saves her life, the next scene she’s calling him an asshole. What gives?? Soul is dead weight in a film that has enough problems. It’s amazing to realize that Gilford and Sanchez is a real-life married couple. Their scenes together as Shane and Liz feel so forced, so unrealistic. Perhaps that’s what they were going for but the dynamic does not work here. Ejogo does a fine job as the brave mother but she isn’t given a lot to work with.
The Purge: Anarchy falters when it treats particular scenes as a big reveal but the audience saw these coming from a mile away. Even when a film is predictable that does not automatically make it a bad film. It’s all in the execution. The audience may wonder if this film is taking itself seriously or intentionally delivering the cheese. It’s a strange balance between the two.
The Purge: Anarchy is unfortunately another misfire on a potentially great concept. The front heavy start will make audiences wish for a stronger experience through the entire film. There are satisfying moments from an action and genre point of view but those moments are few and far between. Most audiences will have their minds made up going into the film. If you enjoyed The Purge this will satisfy your desire to explore this world again. If you disliked the first effort there is no need to see this film.
The Purge: Anarchy is unfortunately another misfire on a potentially great concept. The front heavy start will make audiences wish for a stronger experience through the entire film. There are satisfying moments from an action and genre point of view but those moments are few and far between.