by Coop Cooper
When the first “The Purge” movie was released last year, I reviewed it and decided it was an exciting idea for a franchise but the execution did not live up to the intriguing concept. I made a wish list of what I wanted to see in the next “Purge” film: 1. Take the action outside to the streets to show the carnage going on in a more open environment. 2. Show what different classes of people have to do to survive the night. 3. Show the futility of society in this version of America. Not only did “The Purge: Anarchy” completely fulfill my wish list, but it added a few new ideas by expanding on its mythology.
Set in a future, dystopian version of America, crime and population-related problems have become nearly non-existent thanks to the annual ‘Purge’. On that day, for a period of twelve hours, all emergency services are suspended and all crime is legal. Citizens are allowed to hunt each other down with impunity. The only rules are that high-level public officials are off-limits as are ‘class 4 weapons’ (explosives). This film follows an ensemble of characters who try to survive the night, including a man known only as Sergeant (Frank Grillo) who roams the streets in an armored car, looking for revenge after his son was killed in the Purge the year before. He comes across a poverty-stricken mother and daughter whose entire apartment complex has been cleaned out by a shadowy group of soldiers. Against his better judgement, he saves them, setting off a nightmarish chase that lasts the rest of the film. Also joining the group is a middle-class couple whose car breaks down in the city minutes before the Purge begins.
The story unfolds like a horror film as the characters are thrust into nightmarish situations, each more terrifying than the last. The excellent pace keeps them on guard and running the entire time with recurring masked ghouls popping up to terrorize and pick them off.
One of the most rewarding aspects of the film is how effectively it expands upon the mythology of “The Purge”. Here we learn there are rich elites that pay mercenaries to capture poor people to be put into mazes to be hunted down by the highest bidder. Some needy people give themselves up for this willingly in order to ensure financial security for their families. Street hustlers make money off of the event by selling black market weapons. A radical movement also exists to resist the Purge and launch attacks on those who gain the most from it. It’s also chilling to see hardened maniacs lower their weapons and walk away from an imminent kill as soon as the siren to end the Purge sounds. It’s like some sort of twisted behavioral conditioning that warrants more discussion.
Of course it is an improbable series of events that would allow for such a ridiculously sadistic holiday to be formed, but as a parable, it works. Such a society would fall completely in a short amount of time. Doctors, leaders, engineers, people doing important work would be killed, binging progress to a standstill. The economy would collapse from the staggering amount of damage inflicted from year to year. It would also create of vicious cycle of unchecked vengeance that victimizes everyone (a theme the movie addresses). Although it seems to be intended as a warning of the evils of an overpowered far-right government, it works as a parable for any type of government overreach and those who follow it blindly.
It’s an intensely thrilling ‘what if?’ story that encourages as much discussion and speculation as zombie movie craze did years ago. What would you do? How would you protect yourself? Where would you go? You find yourself constantly asking these questions as you watch.
Most critics will see this as a B-movie time waster or a solid thriller at best. I see it as the most important urban dystopia film since “Escape from New York”. Because of that, “The Purge: Anarchy” is already one of my favorite movies of the year.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars