Director: James DeMonaco Starring: Frank Grillo, Carmen Ejogo & Zach Gilford Synopsis: “A young couple works to survive on the streets after their car breaks down right as the annual purge commences.” Rating: 15 Runtime: 103 minutes
“United we purge.”
When The Purge was released last year, I found myself massively disappointed with what I saw. The concept seemed great, but the execution was severely lacking and it felt like a wasted opportunity. What should have been an exciting attempt at how a country, state, city or town copes with the most ridiculous of concepts, was instead a run of the mill home invasion thriller. Luckily, director James DeMonaco has learnt from his mistakes, and has crafted a much tighter affair that makes good on the on the promise from the first film.
The basic concept behind The Purge series is the notion that all crime becomes legal in North America for 12 hours on one night of the year, allowing its citizens to do whatever they want without fear of being reprimanded by the police. This, apparently, is responsible for record low levels in unemployment and poverty as people take part in the ultimate way to let off steam. Of course, the concept is as absurd as they come, but it does also allow for some neat ideas to be played out on-screen.
As the Annual Purge is about to begin, we are introduced a varied cast of, mostly, one-dimensional characters. We have a down on their luck mother and daughter Eva and Cali (Carmen Ejogo and Zoe Soul), who find themselves out on the street after an altercation with their neighbour, who believes tonight is his night. While dueling couple Shane and Liz (Zach Gilford and Kiele Sanchez) are forced to abandon their car, which has seemingly been tampered with, and are also forced to survive the night. Leaving Frank Grillo’s Leo as the only character who is out to actually purge. The five are drawn together though an unlikely circumstance, but they are soon forced to work together, and form an uneasy trust.
The Purge: Anarchy is relatively slow in getting towards the action, but this initial slow pace enables the tension to build, and allows the audience to bask in director James DeMonaco’s haunting imagery. This imagery helps to give the film a real feel. Roaming gangs butcher other gangs, buses roll uncontrollably through the streets after being set on fire, while women stand in the street covered in blood. This is what we should have seen in the first Purge film, as it lets the audience view this night of mayhem on a wider scale, and ultimately makes it feel like it is really happening.
Director James DeMonaco also does a good John Carpenter impression. Parallels can be made between The Purge: Anarchy and the likes of Escape from New York and Assault on Precinct 13, with a little bit of Walter Hill’s The Warriors thrown in for good measure. There is a level of tension throughout the film, created by the fact that a new threat is around the next corner or in the next building. Couple that with a cast of characters who may be better of not trusting each other, and The Purge: Anarchy can be an uneasy ride at times.
While The Purge: Anarchy is not perfect, it is a distinct improvement on the first film. Taking the action to the streets was a good idea, as was eliminating the type of annoying children we saw in The Purge. This series may not have many more places to go, but it seems to have enough ideas left before it jumps the shark and becomes a parody of itself. Bring on The Purge 3.
In summary: The Purge: Anarchy is a huge improvement on its predecessor, and while it is far from being perfect, it is still an entertaining action/thriller and has enough gas left for a few more trips yet.