The Purge: Anarchy (2014)

The makers of the original “Purge” deliver the movie everybody wanted to see the first time around!

Wisely listening to the criticism heaped upon the original “The Purge,” writer/director James DeMonaco has corrected course and taken the novel ideas introduced in the low budget 2013 box-office hit and delivered a sequel with a much bigger scope and higher body count. It was probably a mistake in the first place to set the original film inside the house of a one-percenter family, and while I both defended the film and thought it provided a good deal of moral and social food for thought, clearly the more interesting and exciting story is the one set on the urban city streets where the population can’t afford to hide in high tech lockdown security.

The Purge: Anarchy” is that movie.

In a dystopian future version of the United States of America, the New Founding Fathers have enacted the annual Purge. Once a year, for a twelve hour period between 7PM and 7AM the next morning, all crime is legal, including theft, rape and murder. The idea is that this annual “release” keeps the crime rate low and the employment rate high the other 364 days of the year, but there’s a bonus for society’s one percent. The Purge wipes out that nasty (and costly) part of the population that includes the elderly, the sick and the poor.

While the first film was built around the plot device of the home invasion thriller, “The Purge: Anarchy” is an action/survival movie more akin to dystopian science-fiction films like “Escape from New York.” This means that unlike the first film, this one isn’t really a horror film and other than a couple of early jump scares, “The Purge: Anarchy” isn’t trying to be overtly scary. There are roving gangs in scary masks and creepy make-up, but this isn’t a slasher film.

The sequel’s first and best advantage over the original film is in casting the right guy to play the hero/anti-hero leading the group of characters trying to survive Purge Night. Frank Grillo (“Warrior,” “Captain America: Winter Soldier”) plays a man with a mission to avenge the death of his son on Purge Night, and he provides the perfect balance of charisma and toughness to carry the movie. He’s a badass that’s worth rooting for.

While on route to his Purge target, Grillo encounters a stranded young couple and a mother and daughter who are about to become Purge Night statistics. Against his better judgment, Grillo relents to his moral compass and violently rescues the innocent strangers from murderous Purge gangs. He then finds himself stuck with this helpless group in the middle of the city; the worst place to be on the worst night of the year.

The quiet, empty city streets become an apocalyptic hunting ground filled with psychotic snipers, murder loving rednecks with flame throwers and creepy, painted up gangbangers. The urban locations are extremely well lit and shot, creating a tense atmosphere of impending doom. While it’s not scary in the traditional horror movie sense, the action is both exciting and disturbing enough to satisfy the gore hound crowd.

While I liked the original ideas and low budget charm of the first film, “The Purge: Anarchy” ultimately makes much better use of the politically frightening premise and delivers a more satisfying and exciting experience while still retaining much of the sociopolitical subtext.

I’m sure this sequel will garner as many haters as the original. Haters gonna hate, but I’m a “Purge” fan so far. If there really are eight million stories in the naked city, I’d watch at least a couple more set during Purge Night.

The Phantom of The Ville

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