The Purge: Anarchy Is A Marked Improvement Over The Original, But There Is So Much Farther That It Could Have Gone
What bothered me most about James DeMonaco‘s 2013 movie The Purge was that after introducing viewers to a United States that had brought record reductions in crime though a once-a-year catharsis known as the Purge it didn’t even try to keep up with it’s entertainingly dystopian concept.
Instead, it became a simple home invasion thriller, though if You’re Next had shown us anything, it’s that that’s not necessarily a bad thing; though what DeMonaco pulled felt too much like a ‘bait-and-switch‘ to not be acknowledged.
He makes up for any such shortcomings in the sequel, The Purge: Anarchy. You learn that behind the Purge is a cabal known as “The Founding Fathers,” who were apparently voted into power, and somehow–without sending the nation into the depths of fascism–managed to sell people on the idea that if they were able to engage in a night of violence once a night, every year that it would result in not only lower crime statistics, but unemployment as well.
Which makes sense, especially the latter part, when you consider who it is that’s doing the dying.
But the there’s a weakness to the concept: As Americans we are defined to a very real extent by our excesses. I mean, why have a can of soda when you can have a Big Glup? And why stop at a Big Gulp when there’s the Double Big Gulp, which contains more liquid than your stomach can actually hold? It’s all about making things bigger, and not necessarily better so if ‘purging’ one night a year had such miraculous results, then I am reasonably sure that at the very least someone would have suggested expanding it a full day. Or a day and a half. Or two days.
Putting that aside, this time around DeMonaco paints on an even larger canvas–a entire city as opposed to just one suburban home–and the movie benefits as the camera moves over city blocks like some sort of automated drone, spying on the inhabitants.
The cast is larger as well, and revolves around Shane (Zach Gilford) and Liz (Kiele Sanchez) who’s car breaks down before the Purge begins, Eva Sanchez (Carmen Ejogo) and her daughter, Cali (Zoë Soul) and Sargeant (Frank Grillo) a man who hides a secret that sends him into the streets when wiser heads would have sought shelter.
Fate brings these five individuals together, as they race around the city, trying to stay alive. The movie during those scenes played like a version of Walter Hill’s “The Warriors” for awhile, and things wee most interesting when they were on the move.
I mentioned earlier that director DeMonaco goes deeper into the how’s and why’s behind the Purge, which is welcome, but he does so in such a fashion that it comes off almost patronizingly in support of the goals of the Occupy movement, when perhaps something a bit more nuanced would be in order.
Though considering that the first film barely acknowledged the high-minded concept that animated it at all, The Purge: Anarchy is a marked improvement over the first film, though admittedly a guilty pleasure.