In this indirect sequel to last year’s Ethan Hawke-starring thriller, The Purge: Anarchy follows a group of unfortunate folks stranded in the streets during the middle of the Purge, and their fight to survive the night. A woman with her teenage daughter and a divorcing couple are fortunate enough to run into a police sergeant (Frank Grillo) out for vengeance for his deceased son, who decides to help them take on the hordes of rapists, thieves and murders roaming the streets, ready to “release the beast”.
The Purge: Anarchy takes the action to the streets – the opposite of the original Purge which took place in one setting and only glimpsed at what the Purge actually was. But it still manages to come up with all new problems for why the film just doesn’t work. Writer/director James DeMonaco is clearly borrowing from genre classics like the Warriors, Death Race and even touches of Mad Max to create the world of the Purge, where masked maniacs roam the streets looking for victims. But DeMonaco tries to layer in levels of political intrigue and class relations this time around to very mixed and uneven results. The resistance group that is introduced in the film to contrast the rich and privileged that participate under massive protection is handled so ineffectually that it feels like a tired add-on.
The cast is decent enough however. Grillo does some solid work but the standouts are the mother/daughter team played by Zoe Soul and Carmen Ejogo, but they aren’t given a lot to work with script-wise. The film’s flimsy plot is just there to move the story from set-piece to set-piece, and those set-pieces only work about half of the time. The film’s final act is tactically ridiculous as the group ends up in a very tightly confined ‘hunting ground’ where they manage to remain unseen by experienced hunters, who are easily taken out one by one by Grillo’s sergeant.
In the end, The Purge: Anarchy commits one of the biggest sins of celluloid in that it’s just plain dull and uninteresting. The film is well made and is staged very well in enough of its action sequences that it is not a terrible film, yet it is far from good. Audiences will just leave the theater with an overwhelming feeling of “meh”.