The United States has had a love/hate affair with the idea of civil unrest from its very beginnings, as many of the most pivotal events in the country’s history started as disturbances in the streets. In a land with a Constitution that is supposedly for the people and by the people, the established authorities have long feared the masses of the poor and disenfranchised becoming self-aware. The idea of the “unwashed” running rampant through the streets is as old as civilization itself. Normally, it is the authorities who are fearful of the poor and downtrodden realizing that the power of change literally lies in their hands. However, in The Purge: Anarchy we find that the laws of the land have been amended to allow for wanton violence and destruction, and it is the rich who benefit most in the aftermath.
The sequel to 2013's Purge, the follow-up continues the twisted premise based on a distant future where all crime in the United States is considered legal for one night. The primary targets of the purge are often homeless, the poor and others unfortunate enough to be caught outside when the alarm announcing this annual 12-hour rampage of death and destruction is sounded. In The Purge: Anarchy, starring Frank Grillo (Sergeant), Carmen Ejogo (Eva Sanchez), Zach Gilford (Shane), Kiele Sanchez (Liz) Zoe Soul (Cali), and a small cameo by Michael K. Williams (Carmelo), the major players end up colliding into one another and the results are disastrous for some, deadly for others.
Sergeant, an individual who appears to have substantial military training, is en route to visit revenge upon an unsuspecting man when he stumbles across the mother-daughter duo Eva and Cali. Sergeant saves them against his own better judgment, before immediately running into Shane and Liz, a married couple who are also on the run. As is often the case in thrillers, the characters make a menagerie of fatalistically stupid decision in leading to the final climax.
For example, why would Shane and Liz wait until 30 minutes before the purge horn sounded to go shopping? We are aware that using stupidity and coincidence as plot devices are necessary to drive a film forward at times, but there were just too many coincidences and lucky breaks for the protagonists of this film. Though broader in scope and more entertaining on a visceral level than the original Purge, both rely too much on the concept of “a few good people” banning together to brave a world that has clearly lost its damn mind. When everyone else is out blowing up buildings and killing their neighbors, other individuals are enlightened enough to help one another.
One character, young Cali, is a fan of Carmelo (Williams), a militant anti-purge rebel leader who communicates via guerilla marketing; flyers, the Internet and shortwave radio broadcasts. She mentions and quotes him often yet we don’t see him interact with the protagonists in any manner until the movie is three-quarters over. And even then it’s only in passing. This was a waste of an excellent, popular actor.
Though the characters are different, with an interesting cameo character returning from the first film, many of the tropes were the same. The major thematic exception is that unlike the first film, which focuses on the rich, this sequel focuses on the have-nots while taking place outside in the midst of the purge’s mayhem.
Reliance on strangers for assistance in a world gone mad, a string of fortunate coincidences, acts of mind-numbing stupidity and the sacrificing of one’s life for strangers are just a few of the many similarities. Yes, The Purge: Anarchy provides plenty of gleeful scenes of senseless violence and bloodlust, but that’s about it.
The Shadow League gives The Purge: Anarchy a C-.