Tag Archives: The Purge

5 thoughts on ‘The Purge: Anarchy’

I'm no Purge expert, but I'm pretty sure you don't want to see this on your drive home.

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.

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.

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‘Purge’ payoff worth the journey

Such a bunch of good looking, smiling young folks. Why don't you come right in?

Such a bunch of good looking, smiling young folks. Why don’t you come right in?

Horror fans know the problem. So often quality, scary movies are ruined in the third act when it comes time for the carnage to mean something, resolve something. It’s frustrating to watch.

The Purge is surprising in that aspect. The second act is often stupid and repetitive, held together by menace and pacing. But the brilliant set-up and the third act save the film from becoming just another horror underachiever.

The scenario is this: It’s sometime in the near future, and America has changed. Crime and poverty are at all-time lows. The reason for the U.S.’s good fortunes? The Purge. One night a year, from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., all crime is legal. Murder, rape, theft, arson. It’s all good. Let it out. Purge those inner demons so that the rest of the year you can be neat, perfect, shiny, productive.

James (Ethan Hawke) takes in big bank on Purge security, helping the rich make sure that they are protected when it counts. He’s a had a good year – top salesman – and, thanks to a new addition, he has the biggest house in the neighborhood to show off his success. He and his family lock themselves in for Purge night … until his son sees a homeless, African-American man running for his life and gives him sanctuary. The masked baddies who were attempting to kill the man show up and tell the family this: To Purge is our right. Give us the vermin who ran from us, and do it before our “tools” get here, or we will rip the house apart and get him and all of you ourselves.

A lot to like. An examination of the violent American psyche taken to new, disturbing heights. A look at class and race and what roles those play, both in personal interactions and on the macro scale. Writer/director James DeMonaco’s flick does a nice job of working these sorts of themes as the action unfolds.

The ending – which I won’t go greatly into, in an attempt to avoid spoilers – searches for humanity in a situation where little is apparent. It’s slightly anti-climactic, but that doesn’t hurt it. The openness, the uncertainty, the lack of explanation or resolution is wise and refreshing. It seems as if it will conclude as a call for hope, yet that hope seems incredibly distant and even futile.

But the journey from set-up to ending, that is where the issues lie in The Purge. The first sign of concern is a very brief cut-away shot of man sharpening his machete in his backyard. Not unusual middle-age Purge activity, except in this very ritzy neighborhood, this guy has built a permanent sander/grinder in the middle of his yard, like it’s a bird feeder or something. It just seems too tacky for the setting and completely out of place, forced in to make a point which had already been made by that point in the movie.

Then there’s James’s security system. It’s allegedly top of the line in what appears to be a new McMansion. So when the baddies are outside, and his wife (the wonderful Lena Headey) asks if they’re going to be OK, James admits that while it won’t be easy for the Purgers to get in, it’s possible. So there’s a mounting buildup as we what for the Purgers tools to arrive, wondering what sort of fire, explosions, damage and mayhem await. The tools: A redneck with a pickup and a winch. That’s right. They tie a chain to the bars on the windows and pull them off, no harder than peeling the plastic seal off a pudding cup. I’m expecting the Battle of Helm’s deep; instead I get Earnest battling the developers with a bunch of junior high kids and an unstable golf cart.

The action that ensues is the same thing, repeated. Person A enters dark room with only a flashlight, silence builds, Person B (and/or C, D, E) jumps out, fight happens. Over and over. And why is it dark? Because it seems to me if you have millions to build your dream home, you might actually have a couple of generators installed to keep the power going in case of an outage.

This is what ultimately hurts The Purge, the journey. Too many stupid things happen – the son’s health seems to be an issue at the start, but never comes up again; for some reason the family’s first thought isn’t to load up on the guns from their fancy cabinet; no safe room in the super-secure mansion; etc. – that show flawed reasoning and unnecessary action. For as smart as the concept and the themes of The Purge are, what’s happening on-screen plays out at a much lower IQ. It also moves too quickly. The siege outside and the family’s actions inside should drive this movie, but it’s rushed through to get the baddies inside the house for underwhelming fights.

If you’re a horror fan, I’d recommend The Purge as a worthy view. But for those who dislike horror for the gore for gore’s sake, lack of logic, etc., this isn’t going to change any minds.

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