Director: James DeMonaco
Starring: Frank Grillo, Carmen Ejogo, Zach Gilford, Kiele Sanchez, Zoe Soul
Written by: (also based on the characters created) James DeMonaco
Running Time: 103 mins
Release date: 25th July 2014
Last year saw the release of the high concept genre film, The Purge, a film that had a very intriguing central idea, yet was let down by a poorly constructed and executed movie, that basically became a slasher in your house horror. It did, however, make loads of money. So much so, that writer and director James DeMonaco has been given a second chance with a sequel. Thankfully, he has looked back at his previous film and, quite possibly, listened to the criticism of the first outing to make a completely unrelated second helping that works so much better, thanks to opening it up and trusting in his idea.
The Purge is an event introduced by the government to reduce crime. One night each year, for 12 hours, crime is permissible, including murder. So the streets are empty except those who want to take advantage of this time. Shane and Liz are a young couple whose car breaks down and find themselves trapped on the streets of the city. Eva and Cali are mother and daughter, whose building is invaded by an army and they are led out for execution. In steps the mysterious Sergeant, a man with his own agenda, yet saves the two groups and they have to wander the streets, hoping to see the night out while the Serg plans on his own purge.
I liked the central idea a lot yet in the first film, in which Ethan Hawke and Lena Headley ran around a house being chased by cold-blooded killers, just was not original enough to sustain the exploitative yet ingenious premise. Here, DeMonaco has broadened his palette which, surprisingly, works as a tension-filled thriller, much more than the house-bound original.
He has also added some new elements to the story, including an anarchist group who have an understanding for the true meaning of the Purge, to rid society of the poor and unwanted and bring down the population, while at the same time, offering up human beings for the rich to use as sport.
The film obviously borrows from plenty of past sources: The Warriors, Escape From New York and a low-budget Oz-ploitation film, Turkey Shoot. Yet it does have plenty to offer that is different and it is tense when it needs to be, gripping and throws up some little unexpected twists. It is, however, very violent and you do question the level of entertainment you are getting from this. It also doesn’t hold back on how graphic it gets, although, thankfully, it does have the good sense not to linger too long on dead bodies and attackers sadistic nature towards them.
The cast is fine, not having to do too much except run and look scared, although Frank Gallio, who was previously seen taking on Captain America in The Winter Soldier, makes for an agreeable leading man, all whispered husky-voiced and ruthless killer instinct. An action hero in the making? Who knows?
The Purge: Anarchy does have a satirical bent and isn’t afraid to insult the rich and how society view the poorer of America but we aren’t rammed home with deep, meaningful messages, just a reasonable decent exploitation movie that is a marked improvement on its original.