It’s getting more difficult to remember what I had for lunch yesterday, much less a movie I saw a year ago. However, I have a feeling that if I don’t remember the movie, it probably wasn’t very good. Such may be the case for The Purge, written and directed by James DeMonaco. Starring Ethan Hawke, which at one point in his career may have lent it some degree of credibility, the concept for The Purge was a great one…
In the near future, the “new founding fathers” of the United States have legalized one 12-hour period per year for people to commit nearly any crime. All emergency services are suspended during this “purge” and no one is held accountable for their actions. Well, they’re not held accountable by anyone else; however, as we saw in The Purge and now The Purge: Anarchy, people sometimes hold themselves accountable, creating some compelling issues regarding their morality.
Allowing the Purge has decreased everyday crime drastically, making it well worth one night a year of chaos. In The Purge, the perspective of this questionable future was from the wealthy; in fact, the man who made a fortune selling equipment to protect people’s homes on Purge night. The big moral issue was whether or not his family should give asylum to a man trapped outside when it might put them in jeopardy. That’s still a great concept, full of potential.
But it wasn’t really big enough for a full length movie. Instead of exploring the possibilities of such a clever idea, The Purge disappointingly became just another home invasion movie. The Purge: Anarchy, again written and directed by DeMonaco, takes a different approach, showing the perspective of people trapped on the urban streets during the Purge. Ultimately, it’s a more interesting approach, but the movie has another problem. This time it overreaches and attempts to explore too many possibilities.
The Purge: Anarchy focuses on the idea that there’s an ulterior motive for letting people kill each other. Not only does it control the size of the population, but it’s a dark game of survival of the fittest for the wealthy. What harm is there in ridding the world of the poor and homeless? What if that was the real reason the new founding fathers legalized the Purge? Again, a great concept, but the execution is dumbed-down.
Potential spoiler alert; read ahead with caution. In The Purge: Anarchy, the government has taken to the streets in trucks to make sure the right people and proper numbers are killed. I wrote “potential” spoiler alert because I don’t know if that plot point is going to surprise anyone; it didn’t surprise me. Meanwhile, a resistance has been building and they also hit the streets to undermine the government. Suddenly, a more intimate story of a ragtag band of survivors is diluted by throwing in government conspiracy.
There is another clever idea hiding within all the gunfire. Some people may choose to purge in more… well, sophisticated ways. So the threat to people on the streets might not be as obvious and immediate as you originally believe. How would you purge if you were a millionaire versus a part-time waitress? I must admit, this does hammer home the class warfare theme that was hinted in the first movie and made more blatant in the second, and was a pleasant surprise.
I liked how The Purge: Anarchy begins. We’re introduced to three sets of people: a man (Frank Grillo) seeking revenge for the death of his son, a couple (Zach Gilford and Kiele Sanchez) stranded when their car breaks down, and a mother/daughter (Carmen Ejogo and Zoe Soul) drug out of their home by the aforementioned government baddies. How will their disparate stories connect? What will they ultimately have to do with each other? The answers to these questions aren’t as satisfying as I hoped.
Once they get together, there’s non-stop mayhem through the movie’s conclusion and The Purge: Anarchy becomes less horror or thriller and more action. Therefore, I didn’t find it to be very suspenseful. There are only a couple false scares near the beginning (one that really made me jump), but I didn’t experience much tension the rest of the way. The best way I can describe it is to say the movie devolves.
The Purge: Anarchy is entertaining enough, I suppose. How does it compare to the first? I can’t decide if one or the other was better, so I’d say they’re about the same. If you liked the first one, by all means go see this one. But if you didn’t, there’s no reason to expect anything different this time around. With a concept this good… one that struggles with big, moral issues… there’s got to be a great movie somewhere. But it isn’t here. I do know the perfect way to deliver it; unfortunately, Rod Serling is dead and The Twilight Zone is no longer airing.