Good for a “Purge” movie, not so good for the progress of American cinema. The Purge: Anarchy at least is the movie the first one should have been. It certainly is intense enough for exploitation movie fans, and more about the concept is explained this time. It starts with three parallel sets of characters whom eventually converge, and the performance by Frank Grillo (“The Grey,” “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”) as a Mad Max type is top-notch. He’s not afraid of violence or the anarchy, even though he might think it’s wrong. He has his own agenda for being out and about in the night, but he ends up protecting an unlikely four others who wouldn’t have much of a chance of surviving the night. The sequel is about improbable survival considering the circumstances.
Of course, there are one or two of you readers who aren’t aware of the concept. To recap what was learned in the first installment, “The Purge” is a futuristic scenario of America where crime is at an all-time low, unemployment is at 1% and the country has rebounded from financial debt. To achieve this, the “New Founding Fathers of America” has sanctioned one night a year as “Purge Night” where citizens are given license to kill, rape, and maim anyone with class 4 weapons or lower.
This time, the sequel competently convinces us that this new order has been created to eliminate social undesirables and eradicate the surplus of the blue collar working class. The “New Founding Fathers of America” is the name of the despotism government, whom I wouldn’t doubt is too different from the ideals of the NRA if they ever took over our country. The sequel also competently suggests that such a society would be rigged so the government would be actively involved in deliberately wiping out undesirable slum districts.
There is an implied theme here that isn’t exploited: People have to act nicer to each other the other 364 days of the year so as to not get on anybody’s bad list. I doubt that a non-violent “Purge” movie about all those other days of the year would drum up box office business, however. Sticking to the movie that is at hand, writer-director James DeMonaco delivers the anarchy. But there are times when the movie loses its tact. I’m thinking of a sequence near the end where high society has paid for a hunting party of the poor, and the arena looks like a set out of the cheapoid “Saw” movies. This sequence, vilifying the decadent rich, doesn’t expand the viewer’s mind because it caves into clichés that aren’t even stylish. What’s not fair about my comment is that I have compared it to the “Saw” movies – “Purge” movies are genius compared to that excrement.
There is more money put into this sequel. There is a certain trash appeal. Check and check. At this point, I have failed to tell you about the other four actors who hang-on to the laconic Mad Max like hero. Zach Gilford, Kiele Sanchez, Carmen Ejogo and Zoe Soul, the last one talking the ear off of our main hero with her thoughts on “morality.” Damn it, girl, shut up. Last, there is Michael K. Williams as an anti-Purge internet revolutionary named Carmelo (the actor in an interview calls him a cross between Malcolm X and Huey Newton from the Panthers). Carmelo is an interesting character. But what do you know, Carmelo happens to be staging his anti-Purge movement in Downtown Los Angeles and not the capital of Washington D.C. where it would make sense.
Why 2.5 stars instead of 3? The movie gives us more insights into the socioeconomic and racial divide than the Academy Award winning “Crash.” I’m glad the sequel followed through on the promises that the first installment lacked. Still, it’s not progress until we get a non-violent “Purge” movie (again, that won’t happen) or until there is a real revolutionary plot. There are also still too many moments of preposterousness or opportunities that dodge the issues. And five minutes after I had walked out of the theater, I realized I had forgotten that the final hour of the movie hadn’t had two of the survivors bring up in mourn of the father they lost, or comment on the fact they were $100,000 richer because of their loss. The father was played by John Beasley. The most disturbing thing about “Anarchy” is that he was introduced to us and never referred to again.
But if you want the anarchy then I will forgive you if you go. I understand. I have a primitive appetite for such wretched exploitation myself. But if we ever do reach a time in America where there is an actual “Purge” night, I think sadly I would participate and purgehunt – on anybody who claims to have liked the “Saw” movies. Those people are lower than low and serve no purpose. (I kid you, I think.)
104 Minutes. Rated R.
HORROR / BLOODLUST / WEEKEND VIEWING DEBAUCHERY
Film Cousins: “A Clockwork Orange” (1971); “The Warriors” (1979); “Crash” (2005); “The Purge” (2013).