Anarchy in L.A.
Purge sequel promises horror, delivers yawns
By Ian Murphy 07/24/2014
The Purge: Anarchy
Directed by James DeMonaco
Starring: Frank Grillo, Carmen Ejogo, Zach Gilford
Rated R for strong disturbing violence, and for language
1 hr. 43 min.
New and interesting concepts for films have recently been in short supply. Every romantic comedy follows the same formula, every action movie is a sequel and every horror movie is a reboot. The creative forces in Hollywood seem to have run dry. That was what made the first Purge film so intriguing. An original idea. Sadly, The Purge: Anarchy takes the interest of the original and bludgeons it to death with an unapologetic myriad of boring clichés.
The film begins a few hours before the annual purge. In America 2023, crime has dropped to nearly nonexistent levels. On one night a year, all crime is legal. A couple is on the way home when their car runs out of gas just as the purge commences. While they sneak through the oncoming violence, a mysterious well-armed man goes out into the streets to get revenge on the man who murdered his son, and a mother and daughter are forced to flee from their apartment after a group of would-be kidnappers destroys it. The five of them meet up and reluctantly join forces in an attempt to survive the evil night in the chaos that has become the city of Los Angeles.
The only thing good about this film is the title. Simply calling it “The Purge 2” would have been a disservice to irony. By calling it The Purge: Anarchy it’s almost as if the writer/director was letting the audience in on what is about to drain two hours of their lives through their eyeballs. The movie is cut together seemingly at random, with most of the characters coming across as either vapid or stupid, and with virtually no explanation as to who they are, what they do and why anyone watching it should care whether they live or die. Entire plot lines are started and then abandoned.
During the purge, some people take part and some abstain. The villains are a gang of guys in creepy masks. Clearly it is done for intimidation, but it only comes off as gimmicky, cheesy and about as scary as your average Halloween costume bought at Rite-Aid. The first film used the same bit to slightly better effect, but this time it just doesn’t work. And the main notion of the movie is ridiculous. One has to question what kind of police state America exists under that violent psychopaths manage to keep their pent-up madness dormant for 364 days a year. But the audience never gets to see any of that, there’s no hint of back story showing why the purge is necessary. It just exists. Supremely violent shock films rely on murder and mayhem, but even poorly made ones like the Saw films explain why they are doing what they are doing. This film assumes the viewers are already a part of its world, as opposed to drawing them in with compelling storytelling and a reason to continue watching.
If there is anything positive to bring up about this desperate waste of time it is the performance of Frank Grillo as Sergeant. A poor man’s Punisher, he is stalwart and, unlike his co-stars, avoids melodramatic outbursts, opting instead to give a badass performance reminiscent of Charles Bronson or Lee Marvin. If there is a reason to see this movie, that would pretty much be it. Unless you come across it in the $4.99 bin at Target a few months from now and have an extra $5 that you need to purge from your wallet.