The Purge: Anarchy Review
Reviewed by Simon Roberts.
One of the most common criticisms of The Purge: Anarchy’s predecessor, The Purge, is that it laid down many potentially brilliant concepts onto the table, but failed to satisfy most of them, instead allowing the film to descend into a cliched home-invasion thriller. While still remaining enjoyable, I’d agree that the film could have been better had it expanded on those concepts we were given only mere hints of. The main thing that The Purge: Anarchy promised to do was to realise these ideas, by taking us out of the home and onto the gritty streets of the city centre on Purge night. But the question on everyone’s lips is: does it deliver?
The short answer is: yes. The Purge: Anarchy breaks the boundaries laid down by the first film, by introducing more characters, presenting more danger, and raising the stakes. Anarchy follows three parties; Leo (Frank Grillo), a single purger on a mission, Eva and Cali (Carmen Ejogo and Zoë Soul), a mother and her daughter who are unwillingly drawn into the chaos, and Shane and Liz (Zach Gilford and Kiele Sanchez), a stranded couple with no choice but to take cover in the city centre, who are all pulled together by the events of the Purge. Whilst the majority of the threat is in the form of other purgers who chase the main characters across the city, there is actually a greater and even more menacing threat that remains a constant enigma throughout the film that isn’t revealed until the climax of the film.
The story itself is, basically, a cat and mouse game between the purgers and the hunted team. The ‘drive’ of the story is in the form of Leo’s mission across the city, with the other main characters dragged along for the ride. While there are many memorable chase scenes and exchanges, there are certain scenes that tend to drag a little, making the pacing feel a little off. But of course, there are many elements introduced throughout the film that make the film much more enjoyable and watchable. A major new factor of the film is giving us a proper, long needed insight into the Purge’s consequences on society, and not only do the effects make for entertaining viewing, but are also very believable and realistic. There are aspects taken from several public holidays celebrated in the modern world and moulded to fit the Purge, such as “Stay safe” replacing, for example, “Merry Christmas”, and there are even ‘anti-Purge resistance fighters’ who fight against the violence that the Purge promotes.
Anarchy, while being an action-thriller film, looks to stretch its genre by introducing subtle horror elements. The masks were a nice touch, I found, to inspire anonymity into some of the purgers, working to slightly unnerve the audience without focusing on frightening them. Unlike a percentage of thriller/horror films, Anarchy doesn’t rely on ‘jump’ scenes to give the film a fear factor either. While there are some jump scenes, most of them work to the film’s favour, with only a few falling on their face. The film also dips into ‘political conspiracy’ territory that has it’s own subplot, which makes for much more stimulating viewing, making the basic ‘cat and mouse’ storyline I mentioned earlier more entertaining.
Anarchy enlists a fine cast, varying in fame-factor from already accomplished actors to upcoming talents. A particular highlight is Frank Grillo, who delivers his solemn yet bad ass character to excellence. Leo receives perhaps the most character development, being established from the beginning of the movie as a hard as nails hunter on a deadly mission he’s waited a long time to carry out. Over the course of the film he evolves into a very different character, allowing us to see him in a different light, and making him easily the most interesting character of the story. That doesn’t mean to say that the other main characters aren’t engaging, but they could have done with some more characterization. There is only one character who appears in both The Purge and The Purge: Anarchy, but it’s a welcome surprise cameo, and doesn’t feel shoved in for the sake of it.
I also have to commend the directing of Anarchy. The director, James DeMonaco, uses simple shots to reveal true extents of the Purge’s violence (A shot featuring a burning bus rolling behind Leo’s car as Leo drives down a road is a particular highlight, as there is no particular emphasis on the burning bus, giving the audience the impression that this is a regular occurrence of the night). Action shots are also something this film excels in, using a variety of camera angles and shots to create tension. A particular favourite action scene of mine is when the team are chased by purgers wielding guns and flame throwers in a subway tunnel. You genuinely feel that anything could happen to any of the characters, as the camera uses tracking shots and slow motion to emphasize how dangerous their attackers are.
Overall, The Purge: Anarchy is an improvement on The Purge. Much more action, interesting characters, fantastic directing and acting , The Purge: Anarchy does what it says on the tin, and more. Anarchy also raises the bar for any possible sequel followings, and while some people would disapprove of having another sequel, I believe the potential is there for The Purge franchise to keep on running. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to polish my swords. Blessed be America, a nation reborn.