I’m no Purge expert, but I’m pretty sure you don’t want to see this on your drive home.
1) The Purge: Anarchy was a pretty good film up until the end. It wasn’t so much the horror movie the original was, more of a suspense/thriller kind of flick. The pacing was great, the action was solid. Where it really excels is the totality of the environment. The random gangs of toughs in disturbing masks and costumes, a burning bus rolling by in the background, the constant clock and status updates by the media, etc. The scene is marvelously set. If you’re looking for a fun time that doesn’t involve much thinking, Anarchy is a good choice.
2) Every time I see Michael Kenneth Williams, revolutionary Carmelo Johns in Anarchy, I’m waiting for him to say, “Omar coming!” In this flick, that would have actually worked. (And if you don’t understand this reference, that means you’ve never seen The Wire. I feel sorry for you.)
3) Instead of “Anarchy,” this sequel’s title could have instead included “Fuck the 1%.” Anarchy does one thing many great movies do: Establishes its theme, builds it into the DNA of the film. Here, the (largely) white and rich live protected and prey on the weak, poor and non-Caucasians. The elite are usually safe during the Purge because they can afford to be. Those of color, the disabled, the elderly, they pay the price during the Purge. It really holds a mirror up to modern society, just how uncaring those of the privileged class are, how all human life is not considered equal, how the “capitalist” system we have reinforces and protects these prejudices and injustices, how religion is used to justify all of this madness. Beyond its setting, this is what Purge: Anarchy does best.
Our heroes, hoping to make it a few more hours without getting shot, stabbed, burned or raped.
4) The weakness of Anarchy is its characters. Our main badass Sergeant and the mother-daughter duo of Cali and Eva are solid, especially Sergeant, played by Frank Grillo.. However, Shane (the first time I’ve seen Matt Guilford since he was QB 1 on Friday Night Lights) and Liz are largely … unimportant. Their storyline really adds nothing to the plot. There’s not enough there to care about whether they live or die. Shane and Liz mostly seem to be there because they are the most likely to die so that the more interesting, developed characters can survive. The sacrifice of Cali’s grandfather early adds another aspect to the insanity that develops in the world of the Purge, but it could have been excised with little concern. Big Daddy isn’t around enough to be as menacing as he might have been. And so on.
5) I would argue that Anarchy is better than its predecessor. The original has a great set-up, but gets stupid in a hurry. The ending redeems it a bit. The problem is that we are supposed to believe the family in the original is living in inpenetrable castle, being that the dad is the top salemsan at the best home secuity company in the country. And what does it take to break into such an imposing fortress? A redneck with a pickup truck. From there, the movie devolves into dark rooms with poorly armed prey waiting for someone to jump out at them. Just awful, and a waste of the promising Purge premise. Purge: Anarchy still doesn’t live up to its premise. However, it shows the larger Purge world, giving viewers a more complete picture of this horrible night. It’s also a serviceable action flick that generally moves fast enough that when things get dumb, there’s no time to contemplate it as the next threat is fast approaching.