Movie Review - The Purge: Anarchy
Sequels can be extremely hit or miss. Usually the most you can hope for is that it is as good as the original film. The Purge: Anarchy not only fixes almost all of the problems and missed opportunities of the first film, it also manages to construct a simple but effective narrative to immerse the audience into Purge Night head first. The concept of the Purge, the central focus of writer / director James DeMonaco's political allegory, was wasted on the first film, which amounted to nothing more than a home invasion thriller. And although I quite liked a majority of the Purge, I found the ending of the movie to be immensely disappointing and impossible to believe. But any doubts I had going into this movie were washed away within the first twenty minutes. This will, without a doubt, go down as one of my favorite films of the year.
The film begins by introducing us to several different characters around the city of Los Angeles, and their lives in the hours leading up to Purge Night. There is a young couple trying desperately to get home, a waitress who lives with her teenage daughter and elderly father, and a man preparing to go out into the chaos. The film follows their journeys throughout the night as they try to avoid bands of masked gangs roaming the streets, stalking them like prey. I won't give away any more than that, as there are some nice surprises. The film feels like an homage to classics like The Warriors, Escape From New York, and The Running Man, yet manages to put an original spin on the concept.
The acting in the film is solid, with a compelling performance by Frank Grillo (Warrior) as a conflicted man hellbent on revenge. Real life husband and wife Zach Gilford (Devil's Due) and Kiele Sanchez (30 Days of Night: Dark Days) have an obvious natural chemistry onscreen that allows us to empathize with their characters even amidst some questionable decision making. Carmen Ejogo (Away We Go) and Zoe Soul (Prisoners) are strong as mother and daughter, despite the fact that their characters start to wear on the nerves as the film goes on. Relative newcomers Keith Stanfield (Short Term 12) and Emanuelle Howell (Lords of Dogtown) practically steal the movie in their terrifying performances as the leaders of a gang of young purgers. And last, but certainly not least, Michael K. Williams (The Wire) is commanding as militant revolutionary, Carmelo.
I think most of the credit here belongs to James DeMonaco, whose story and direction are really the star of the film. The pace of the movie is breakneck, the atmosphere he creates on the streets during The Purge is tense and frightening, and the vibrant color palette compliments the immediacy of the action. He has built the perfect vehicle to carry this politically charged cautionary tale. On the surface, this may just seem like another violent horror film, but the message of class warfare and the desensitization of the American people is clear. The film is set in 2024, the not too distant future, because it seems the way things are headed in this country that a concept like The Purge is not only much more realistic than we would care to admit, but that it could also happen sooner than we'd like to think. And this gives the film even more of an impact, as we are left staring into the face of a dystopian future.
To be honest, I am surprised there haven't been any complaints from conservatives about the content of the film, as they are certainly painted as uncaring monsters. But, hey, it's just a movie. And one that I highly recommend. I think Blumhouse has found a concept worthy of a franchise, and maybe now they can retire the dwindling Paranormal Activity series. Regardless, I'm looking forward to the third installment. See you on Purge Night.