The angle on the whole concept of "The Purge" changes, yes. That doesn't save "Anarchy" from falling into tireless cliches, washed out gimmicks and throw away characters. There is some resonance of a film, but the mindless violence is too mindless for it's own good.
What if all crime was legal once a year? What would you do? How you would you do it? you can quote "cleanse your soul". Does murdering really solve anything? These were the questions asked in James DeMonaco's engaging (sometimes thrilling) escapade "The Purge" a little film that took the box office by storm. Now, over a year later, it's beginning to feel like "The Purge" is becoming an annual gathering. (Cashing in on the low budget .. and hopefully turning this franchise into the next "Saw" or "Paranormal Activity"). While I can say that the angle on the subject matter changes a tad, and the perspective as whole has transpired into something that, hypothetically, could work at some point. The problem with "The Purge: Anarchy" is there is little suspense, too many characters, and dumb cliches that I thought we had outgrown by now.
Where the original Purge lacked, "Anarchy" kind of makes up for (and not by much). The problem with the first Purge was that it didn't know how to categorize itself. Rather showing how else the world purges, it instead focused on one families night of survival (and stupidity). After about the half hour mark, the intriguing premise turned into a home invasion thriller reminiscent of such better made films like "The Strangers" and "You're Next". Not to mention the only actual crime that film capitalized on was murder. In "The Purge: Anarchy" we are not caught up in one family's life, but three. Which evidently becomes tiresome after awhile,It should say something that I didn't really care much to even know there names.
The film opens with an annual announcement commencing the annual purge, and to thank our founding fathers. We first meet a waitress Eva (Carmen Ejogo) who is desperately trying to make ends meet for her daughter, and sick father. Living in the projects. Next we meet the bitter couple of Shane (Zach Gilford) and Liz (Kiele Sanchez), whom are going through the process of a separation. As fate would have it, there car breaks down on a freeway hours before the purge commences (the trailer presumes the car just dies, however, a gang of thugs wearing crazy porcelain masks.. cuts the gas line). Then lastly we meet the classic father out for revenge, Leo Barns (Frank Grillo) for the death of his son, over a year ago by a drunk driver. You wouldn't ever think these three unlikely groups would ever cross paths in such a huge city, but they do. Leo inadvertently saves Eva and her daughter, and thus become entrapped within the confines of the purge..and now must struggle to indeed "survive the night".
First off, "The Purge: Anarchy" started with promise and I had some decent expectations. It looked as though the film would be more manageable, and open than the previous entry. Mainly because were getting into the city, and we are going to see how others purge. Does this happen? not really. Instead of taking a more character driven perspective, the film lags and settles for the same ole political mumbo-jumbo that we don't care about. Adding in some mindless subplot about an army militia, whose sole purpose is to end the Purge. Hence the name "Anarchy".
On the performance side of things, nothing truly stood out to me. The only character, if any, that I actually felt connected with was Leo Barnes aching father figure type role, played here by Frank Grillo. His motives for the purge were actually understandable, plain ole fashion revenge. At least he had some purpose. While others were just relentless, and killed others for no apparent reason. Aside from him, everyone else was just basic or average when it comes to the standards of horror fare. (If you can call this a horror flick).
I can respect the direction that James DeMonaco takes the film in, rather focusing on just one purge, it tries to introduce several purge's going on at once. The film's conclusion takes elements that made films like "Hostel" famous. Which is the more exciting aspect that the film has to offer. DeMonaco needs to write stronger characters, a heroine of sorts..that an audience can root for. Instead of introducing us to five people that make us feel nothing.
At least with the first Purge, they knew what to do with their characters. There was a certain creepiness that Rhys Wakefield brought to the first purge, playing the smart-ivy league schoolboy with a thirst for killing. . While this time, no character brought chills to my spine. Even the creepy rip-off masks from "Your Next" didn't send a shiver, nor a goosebump. I wanted to be engaged, enticed, and enthralled ...and I got neither. Which is truly sad considering how much effort went into making this film. Which, you could obviously tell the budget was a bit bigger and this shows in the action set pieces, which are very well shot. The film ends with "364 days until the next annual purge" so another sequel is almost a forgone conclusion.
Ask anyone that I know, and they will tell you I'm sucker for a bad horror/slasher flick. "The Purge: Anarchy" is too messy and can't pick up the pieces from it's interesting and original premise. Instead focusing on the events that actually occur, rather than characters I want to understand and get to know. Perhaps some flashbacks with Leo and his child before he was killed. Maybe if we knew the hardships that Liz and Shane had to go through, we as an audience could somehow relate. But no, we're settled for mindless violence that means nothing. I found enjoyment in the first thirty minutes (roughly). But then much like the original, it takes us away to something much more elusive than it needs to be. I still have hopes for what this franchise can accomplish, because in all honestly the premise is too intriguing. For now, If you're looking for a much better horror tale, stay in and rent "Your Next" or "The Cabin In The Woods". You will be glad you did.
By: Nate Adams
Directed By: James DeMonaco Rated: R Release Date: July 18th 2014 Studio: Universal Pictures Runtime: 100 Mins
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