The Purge: Anarchy

2 Overall Score
Acting: 2/10
Direction: 2/10
Effects: 2/10

Ummmm...It has a beginning, middle and end…

It’s a film that fancies itself as edgy and pretends to be about something profound, but is mind-numbingly simple.

The Purge: Anarchy
Frank Grillo, Carmen Ejogo
Universal Pictures
2014

The 2013 film The Purge introduced the world to a strange Orwellian world where the U.S. government, for one night only, permits any and all crime–“including murder”, as the radio warning at the beginning of the film announces with as much subtlety as a derailed cargo train. But The Purge turned its bizarre dystopian premise, into nothing more than a bland home invasion film. In The Purge: Anarchy, the premise is embraced a bit more, taking the action from the confined space of an upper middle-class McMansion, and out onto the streets with all of the “purging” ne’er-do-wells. But The Purge: Anarchy has the same problem as the first film: it introduces a gonzo premise and then presents a two-hour film where that premise isn’t believable for even one second.

The Purge: Anarchy sees three groups of strangers meet on Purge night and band together to survive the twelve hour violence-binge. The first group is Shane and Liz (Zach Gilford and Kiele Sanchez), a bickering couple who have as much chemistry as strangers in a hospital waiting room. Shane and Liz are stranded when their car breaks down in the heart of Purge-landia (the first of several car-not-working plot devices). The second group is Carmen and Cali (Eva Sanchez and Zoe Soul) a mother and daughter forced out of the safety of their housing project and into the violent streets. And the final member of our Purge Team is a character credited simply as Sergeant (Frank Grillo), a cop who plans to use the Purge to get revenge on the man who ruined his life. The film tells us the Purge has all but eliminated crime and poverty; but this is very clearly not the case, as nearly every character in the film is the victim of crime or is living in abject poverty. But alas, the Purge works because the film says it does, so stop asking questions!

The New Founding Fathers of America (N.F.F.A.), the politicians who created and oversee the annual Purge, are clearly the villains in The Purge universe, despite having no screen time. The Purge: Anarchy hints at the larger social and political themes– subjecting our Purge Team to an auction of blood-thirsty one-percenters and casting Michael K. Williams as an anti-N.F.F.A. revolutionary. But these moments are presented with very little conviction, eventually devolving into plot points and set-pieces that the characters must weave through like freeway cones before the film can end. There are greater themes of income inequality and class warfare bubbling under the surface of both Purge films, but neither are smart enough to do anything other than point them out and then move along.

Though the marketing campaign would have you believe The Purge: Anarchy is a horror film, it’s not; it resides somewhere in the realm of action-thrillers. Director James DeMonaco, who helmed the original film as well, directs the action sequences with as much finesse and grace as a drunken sumo wrestler. Frank Grillo, is asked to do the heavy-lifting in most of the action sequences, and between his rigidity and the banal fight choreography, when the fists start flying it’s nearly sleep-inducing. I do have genuine empathy for the actors, who are trying their damnedest to inject some life into this sterile exercise in box-office cynicism. Zoe Soul, playing Cali, the youngest member of the group, is given the most work and carries it nicely, despite having to espouse dialogue that would have been axed in any beginners screenwriting class.

“Dumb” is not a word that I like to throw around when discussing film; it’s dismissive and very often is used in place of actual criticism. But there is no other word for The Purge: Anarchy. It’s dumb. Really, really dumb. And it’s a dumb franchise that plays dress up as biting social commentary. But the most profound question that The Purge: Anarchy asks is why did you pay to see this?

 

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Craig Schroeder
Author: Craig Schroeder View all posts by
I am a graduate of Florida State University, studying Creative Writing and History. Right now I work a desk job but I dream all day of making a living writing comics. I formed an indie label based in Tallahassee called Gentleman Baby Comics and HIT! is our debut comic. I read a lot of comics. I watch a lot of movies. I drink too much soda. I love a great television show.

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