Directed by: James DeMonaco
Starring: Frank Grillo, Carmen Ejogo, Zach Gilford, Kiele Sanchez, Zoe Soul, Michael Kenneth Williams
Last year's low budget hit, The Purge, arrived with a novel and intriguing premise. Set in the US of 2022, the movie took place on 'Purge Night', the one night of the year when all crime is allowed to go unpunished for a 12 hour overnight period, the idea being that this drastically reduces crime levels for the rest of the year. After giving birth to this interesting proposition, writer/director James DeMonaco failed to explore it in a satisfying manner, confining his story, presumably for budgetary reasons, to the interior of a suburban family home. As a result, the movie played out like a derivative home invasion movie.
Despite its shortcomings, The Purge proved one of 2013's biggest sleeper hits, and so a sequel was quickly commissioned and released in less than a year, a turnaround Roger Corman would be proud of. On the evidence of The Purge: Anarchy, it may have been wise to allow more time to develop the project, as this sequel feels exactly how you would imagine such a hasty production might. This time, thanks to a budget increased threefold (rare for a sequel), we get the movie we expected the first time around, albeit a very shoddy version.
Set a year after the events of the first movie, we now follow three separate groups over the subsequent Purge Night. There's WASPy couple Shane (Gilford) and Liz (Sanchez), trapped downtown when their car packs in. There's single mother Eva (Ejogo) and daughter Cali (Soul), forced to take to the streets after their home is breached by a mysterious group of heavily armed men. And there's lone wolf Leo (Grillo), venturing out onto the streets with vengeance on his mind. Fate brings the three groups together, and they begin to uncover the true reasons behind the government's support of the Purge.
Initially, the movie fools us into thinking we're in for an old school apocalyptic exploitation movie, something along the lines of The Warriors or Escape From New York. We see glimpses of extravagantly attired gangs setting out to wreak havoc, but they never reappear in satisfying fashion, as DeMonaco instead focusses on the conspiracy element of the establishment's use of the Purge as a means of wiping out the poor. This plotline is shoddily handled too, offering little insight into the mechanics of why the rich would want to rid America of its lower classes, who they presumably rely on to make them wealthy in the first place. The script is as insightful as a confused schoolboy carving an Anarchy symbol into his desk; pencil case politics at its dumbest.
A second sequel is due next year, which apparently will serve as a prequel, exploring the run-up to the implementation of the first ever Purge. There are interesting ideas to be explored in this franchise, but thus far they've been decidedly wasted.
By Eric Hillis