Review: 4 ways ‘The Purge: Anarchy’ is better than it ever had to be

The second "Purge" features all new scary masks. Credit: Universal Pictures
The second “Purge” features all new scary masks.
Credit: Universal Pictures

‘The Purge: Anarchy’
Director: James DeMonaco
Stars: Frank Grillo, Carmen Ejogo
Rating: R
3 (out of 5) Globes

“The Purge: Anarchy” is that classic type of sequel: The kind quickly assembled to profit on a low-budget surprise success before audiences have moved on to the next cheap distraction. The first film came out only last summer, when it surprised many by grossing dozens of times more than its modest cost. That doesn’t mean it’s not rich in other ways. Here are some ways both films are smarter and better than they need to be (and lacking in others):

Here are your good guys in "The Purge: Anarchy": Frank Grillo, Zoe Soul, Carmen Ejogo, Kiele Sanchez and Zach Gilford. Credit: Universal Pictures
Here are your good guys in “The Purge: Anarchy”: Frank Grillo, Zoe Soul, Carmen Ejogo, Kiele Sanchez and Zach Gilford.
Credit: Universal Pictures

They’re actually about something

“The Purge” refers to an annual tradition in a near-future America in which all crimes, notably murder, are legal for 12 hours. The idea is that the populace gets the worst instincts out of their system once a year. Sure enough, crime rates have gone down. But this claim might actually be bull. As suggested in the first and shown in the second, the ones being killed are actually the lower income and homeless. Moreover, both are a critique of bloodlust, including that the viewers may have to watch some bloody mayhem on a screen.

‘Anarchy’ deepens the first

Where “The Purge” took place in suburbia, “Anarchy” heads to the city, where we see how the most vulnerable — i.e., the most poor — struggle through the holiday to survive. Our heroes are a motley crew thrown together by circumstance, forced to work together to survive the streets. They include a waitress (Carmen Ejogo) and her daughter (Zoe Soul), a young couple (Kiele Sanchez and Zach Gilford) whose car broke down and an armed-to-the-teeth (but secretly decent) stranger (Frank Grillo) who actually intends to use the day to avenge his dead son. We see more of how the extremely wealthy spend the day, not just hiding behind expensive gates but buying people to kill for fun. The whole cast is new (sorry, Ethan Hawke), including a revolutionary (Michael K. Williams) who spreads dissent about the Purge, aiming to take down the right wing government that implemented it.

Frank Grillo plays the guy who actually does want to purge but who's secretly alright. Credit: Universal Pictures
Frank Grillo plays the guy who actually does want to purge but who’s secretly alright.
Credit: Universal Pictures

It’s a pretty decent genre film

“The Purge” was a home invasion picture. This is a survive-the-streets thriller, not unlike “The Warriors,” “Judgment Night” or “After Hours,” and it’s a not bad one. (It is one, though, that, because it’s portraying Downtown L.A. as an every-city, doesn’t use its locale with any personality.) Our heroes are stuck on streets swarming with homicidal maniacs and gangs of masked monsters, and only one has any skill with a gun. There are booby traps and different kinds of villains, and writer-director James DeMonaco is skilled at creating decent if not too inventive ways to continually raise the bar.

But it’s a bit confused

Shockingly, the first went all the way with its critique of bloodlust, even denying viewers the chance to see all the baddies gorily vanquished. This one indulges that desire a little bit more. Grillo’s hopeful-avenger is handy with dispatching baddies, and there’s even a scene where we’re fully nudged to cheer as our heroes turn the tables on a legion of would-be assassins. Ejogo and Soul’s characters are on-hand as the resident tsk-tsking pacifists, forever begging their armed savior to not give into vengeance. But “Anarchy” only sides with them to a point, often giving into genre thrills at the expense of a more nuanced message. It’s still on-point (especially for a Hollywood product) about low-income communities in wealthy cities, but it seems to worried that if it doesn’t give the audience some head shots it will seem like a killjoy.

Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Brooklyn man charged in roommate's stabbing death

A Brooklyn man accused of violently stabbing his roommate to death on Monday is in police custody and faces murder charges.

International

Dinosaurs could have survived asteroid strike

It turns out there is a good and a bad time for the planet to be hit by a meteor, and dinosaurs were just unlucky.…

National

OkCupid admits to Facebook-style experimenting on customers

By Sarah McBrideSAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - OkCupid, a top U.S. matchmaking website, intentionally mismatched users to test its technology, the IAC/InterActive Corp service said on…

Local

MTA fares still increasing 4 percent in newly…

The agency said the 4 percent increases, previously announced in December, will remain steady even as the MTA deals with increasing labor costs.

Movies

Interview: Brendan Gleeson on the way 'Calvary' depicts…

Brendan Gleeson talks about how his new film "Calvary" began over drinks and how his character here is the opposite of the lead in "The Guard."

Movies

'Get on Up' producer Mick Jagger on the…

Mick Jagger, a producer on the James Brown biopic "Get on Up," talks about the time had to tell the singer some bad news and his favorite JB record.

Television

'Glee' star Lea Michele to appear on 'Sons…

"Glee" star Lea Michele has been confirmed as a guest star in the final season of "Sons of Anarchy."

Television

TV watch list, Monday, July 28: 'The Bachelorette'…

See Andi Dorfman make her big choice on tonight's 'Bachelorette' finale.

MLB

Angelo Cataldi: Ryan Howard deserves better from Phillies

Just last week, Ryan Howard endured the embarrassment of a benching that was inevitable, and yet still shocking.

NFL

Larry Donnell has inside track in Giants tight…

Little-known Larry Donnell of Grambling State currently has the inside track, as the second-year player has received the bulk of the first-team reps.

NFL

Computer to Jets: Start Michael Vick over Geno…

Jets general manager John Idzik says the choice of who starts between second-year quarterback Geno Smith and veteran Michael Vick will be a “Jets decision.”

MLB

Yankees looking to trade for Josh Willingham: Report

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Sunday the Yankees are interested in Twins outfielder Josh Willingham.

Travel

Glasgow: Hey, hey, the gangs aren't here

This European city has done a good job getting rid of its more violent residents and revitalizing with artists.

Education

Babson College tops list of best colleges for…

Money magazine has just released its inaugural list of "The Best Colleges for Your Money" -- and the answers have surprised many. Babson College, which…

Education

NYC teens learn how to develop apps during…

Through a program sponsored by CampInteractive, the high schoolers designed their own community-focused apps.

Tech

The Ministry of Silly Walks app is both…

Monty Python have dug into their back catalogue for cash-ins once more, but with the Ministry of Silly Walks app, they've made something that's fun too.