“The Purge: Anarchy is a natural expansion of the first film which unfortunately proves too unwieldy for the director to keep a hold of!”
The Purge: Anarchy is the new film from James DeMonaco and is the follow-up to the 2013 hit, The Purge. As with the original film, the central concept remains; for a twelve hour period once a year all crime becomes legal, thus allowing citizens to purge themselves of any need to steal or kill and keeping crime rates down. However, whereas the original film was a straight up home invasion flick, the sequel takes the viewer out onto the mean streets of Los Angeles to observe the city’s purging.
The plot follows a bedraggled group of survivors banding together during the violent events. There is the married couple on the verge of divorce whose car breaks down, predictably, before the purge begins, the mother and daughter hounded out of their apartment after the purge begins and the out and out nutjob who is stalking the streets for revenge.
The Purge: Anarchy has a number of things going for it; the central concept of a twelve hour crime spree is as engaging as it was in the first film. The carnage that takes place on the streets of LA means that no character is ever safe, raising the tension and the stakes simultaneously. Second to that, expanding the concept away from the rich homes that were the backdrop for the first film means that the violence throughout the film is on a much grander scale and some well shot set-pieces punctuate this film.
However there are a couple of major problems with The Purge: Anarchy. Firstly, the characters aren’t well developed or particularly sympathetic. The lack of a hook from the main cast make it difficult to care about their plight throughout, let alone when a number of them meet their grisly ends.
The main problem with The Purge: Anarchy is the constant social commentary that is paraded throughout. A number of themes are addressed with limited success, including the recession, material greed, a rich vs poor class divide and sexual violence. The set-up of the film is perfect to deliver social commentary, if the director was skilled enough to subtly show the audience a mirror the film would have been better for it, but the messages here are rammed down the viewer’s throat and DeMonaco’s sledgehammer approach detracts from what are pertinent themes. An example of this comes in the finale where rich people hunt down their poorer compatriots wearing tweed; a good scene and decent theme ruined by a touch of the ridiculous.
As with the first film, The Purge: Anarchy has a strong central conceit yet is hamstrung by a heavy handed approach to social issues. The lack of character development is the most criminal flaw here, however, as no film can be successful without good characters, even with the compensations of a plethora of action scenes and strong social themes. To be fair to DeMonaco, he delivered a strong first film that was nicely contained by its budget and concept. The Purge: Anarchy is a natural expansion of that which unfortunately proves too unwieldy for the director to keep a hold of. This film is part action film, part social commentary and neither area of it works as well as it should. There is talk of a third Purge film in the offing, and on this evidence it is difficult to see where the series can go from here. Let’s hope that DeMonaco brings us something that finally maximises the strong central concept.
Director: James DeMonaco
Starring: Frank Grillo, Zach Gilford, Kiele Sanchez
Release date: 17 November 2014
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