Written by: Matt Molgaard
Directed by: James DeMonaco
Cast: Frank Grillo, Carmen Ejogo, Zach Gilford, Kiele Sanchez, John Beasley
Right off the bat, The Purge: Anarchy boasts a more realistic feel than its predecessor. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing realistic about a stretch of time in which the United States says, hey, what the hell – go rob, rape, kill—anything you want, it’s legal! But at least this time around, the country is behaving as one might expect. Hustlers line the streets, eager to make a buck selling heavy artillery for those in need of protection. There’s a generally stronger sense of urgency among every player – major or bit – to walk (or run) into frame. The gates of Hell are hours away from opening, and unlike the characters in The Purge, these characters aren’t taking it lightly, they’re preparing; tucking those chins and loading up for the epic bloodbath that’s about to turn dirty asphalt a deep crimson.
That’s right, in case you missed the first Purge, the whole concept is this: 12 hours, one night of the year and all crime is legal. Survive if you can. Die if you just don’t have the moxie. Nothing, in that regard, has changed between the two films. A whole hell of a lot of other things have.
The first film was primarily confined to one single location – a sprawling abode occupied by Ethan Hawke’s character James Sandin and his family. I expected that to be a great setup, it turns out it did little other than suffocate the action scenes. This film however, is much more grandiose. It’s a broad picture, with loads of action unfolding outdoors, in the streets. In the wide open. You might think that liberation could steal from the look and threat of the villains – who pretty much all wear chilling little masks you probably couldn’t track down during peak Halloween season – but that’s not the case. These guys perform with frightening physical work, and they’ve all got the demeanor of certified executioners. No, the bad guys are no less scary this time around, of that there’s no doubt.
The subplots of the story are great, each meaningful and each managing to empower key performers. Frank Grillo is excellent. Kiele Sanchez and Zach Gilford have quality material to work with. The same can be said for John Beasley and Carmen Ejogo. They’ve got the room to bring characters to life, whereas DeMonaco’s first flick just didn’t gift the details the care they truly needed. And he took the audience for ignorant, lining his performers up to make horrendous decisions at our expense. I’m happy to say he’s patched the holes up with The Purge: Anarchy. This is brutal. This is unforgiving, but cared for. This is the flick I wanted the first time.