The Purge: Anarchy Written & Directed by James DeMonaco
Starring Frank Grillo, Carmen Ejogo, Zoe Soul, Michael K. Williams, Zach Gilford Universal Pictures
Rated R | 103 Minutes
Release Date: July 18, 2014
Review by Yasin Lago
The first Purge film was a concept and box office windfall that took folks by surprise, so much so that it seemed to demand a sequel. True or not, here it is with The Purge: Anarchy. The original played as the suburban-style stuck-in-the-house-with-strangers scenario. This time out the story is told throughout the city, with downtown L.A. as an open set location. Of course that means expanding and expounding on violent crimes committed by seemingly demonic-like phantoms strolling from murder to murder, as well as the class war, slightly hinted at in the previous, which is the focus of this film.
For those not in the know, let’s give a rundown:
Once a year, every year, the United States holds what is called the Annual Purge, a ceremonial nationwide event set by the New Founding Fathers, in which all citizens are given the right to indulge completely in one night’s lawlessness. Absolutely everything is accepted, aside from using certain weapons and harming certain people with high ranks. This purging of one’s sins, or rather the crimes someone’s always wanted to perform, is rationalized as the reason the crime rate is down along with unemployment and that the system works.
Unlike the last movie, where the story followed one family, this one picks up ten years after and intersects three different plot lines: A mother and daughter surviving the inner city; a couple just passing through on the verge of separation; and our anti-hero, packed with guns galore, a steel-plated car, and a dark agenda. There is also a shadowy network of what looks like soldiers in riot gear storming into certain low-income places, collecting poor citizens for the Purge. It’s this situation that requires all five to reluctantly band together to survive the night.
What most have come for, suspenseful action, is in abundance here. The pace is much more relentless than the original, which was set up more as a horror flick. It is very effective in this way, except the pleading for life some characters will do that goes on too long for me. The other problem I have is its representation of the class system. Dated interpretations of the one percent and the online militant revolutionists come off like blaxploitation throwbacks, with snotty, insensitive (to the point of sociopathic) whites and angry, violent blacks ironically purging themselves of the purging party. Michael K. Williams, leader of the revolt, comes off as a cartoonish Samuel L. Jackson angrier than usual.
Who stands out as most capable is Frank Grillo. Fresh off this summer’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Grillo has stepped up to the lead. His cold introduction will have the audience wondering if he’s friend or foe. So when his point-of-view is understood, we’re willing to follow him into Hell. And we do. Frankly, Gerard Butler should start watching his back because his action roles are in jeopardy with Frank around. Here he carries the whole movie, cast and all, on his back. He has me wondering what’s next for him in Hollywood.