By Shane M. Dallmann
You KNEW this was coming… the major success of James DeMonaco’s THE PURGE last year guaranteed the sequel would be out by now… and at least it was written and directed by the same guy (although the copyright infringement battle has just begun… here we go again…).
THE PURGE: ANARCHY is about as good a sequel as could have been made to DeMonaco’s original–at least it opens up the concept and takes it to a variety of locations instead of trying to re-create the “siege” format of the first film. You know the premise: twelve hours of legal crime (with certain restrictions to protect the New Founding Fathers themselves) every year; they say it’s to cleanse our souls while we know it’s really to eliminate the burdensome, costly underclass one year at a time.
A nameless protagonist with an obvious police/military background (Frank Grillo–get used to him as the American face of the upcoming RAID remake franchise) sits on a bed “getting ready” while photographs and newspaper headlines regarding some guy who was “freed on a technicality” are posted on the wall behind him. There. Now you know everything about this guy, what he plans to do and why he plans to do it. We get the bickering couple on the verge of a separation until a scary masked street gang sees to it that they become free-range targets on Purge Night. And we get the low-income Hispanic waitress and her daughter… Papa has excused himself for the evening and what HE’s doing constitutes one of the more disturbingly effective elements of the sequel.
Circumstances throw all of the above together on a quest to make it to safety and “survive the night.” Bad things continue to happen. But this time (like in DEATH RACE 2000) there’s a rebel faction looking to strike back at the N.F.F.A. (and looking and sounding almost exactly like the Black Panthers in the process, for those few possible audience members remaining that still don’t “get it”).
That’s really all there is to it… but DeMonaco still has the chops to make the terror/violence sequences work quite well… make no mistake, this is a slick and efficient thriller for all its formula…
…that is, until we get to Act III as it were. And on the off chance that you didn’t see this sequence spoiled a thousand times over in the trailers and TV spots, I may as well tell you that at this point we’re essentially thrown into a “HOSTEL meets THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME” scenario and things just get more and more predictable and humdrum from there… right down to the character who absolutely has to spell out in painful detail what any viewer with a reasonably functioning brain has surely managed to figure out for himself. “You mean… they were IN on it?”
THE PURGE: ANARCHY supplies the horror, suspense and action; and at this rate there’s likely to be a third one. The problem is that it has nothing new to say… but insists on saying it anyway.