Magazine article Screen International

The Purge: Anarchy

Magazine article Screen International

The Purge: Anarchy

Article excerpt

Dir/scr: James DeMonaco. US. 2014. 103mins

Expanding the world of its close-quarter predecessor, The Purge: Anarchy proves to be a tenser, darker and better experience than the subpar 2013 original. This franchise's underlying conceit -- in a future America, citizens are given 12 hours per year to commit whatever crime they want -- remains absurd, but writer-director James DeMonaco has come up with a sequel featuring new characters and a sturdy action-thriller framework that mostly transcends the ham-fisted sermonising.

The Purge: Anarchy is little more than well-done genre fare -- it won't linger in your memory for even 12 hours -- but it's darkly effective and consistently gripping.

Set for release in the States on July 18, The Purge: Anarchy hopes to capitalise on the surprise success of last year's The Purge, which brought in $89m worldwide on a reported $3m budget. Universal is betting that the Purge conceit is Anarchy's biggest marketing hook -- after all, most everyone from the original died -- which makes this film something of a novelty in a summer of sequels mostly tied to a recognizable character or star. With that in mind, the commercial stakes are relatively low: Even if the movie is only a mild theatrical performer, profitability should be easily attained once ancillaries are calculated.

Unlike most sequels, The Purge: Anarchy doesn't require the viewer to have seen the original. The only element that crucially connects the two films (other than DeMonaco's participation) is the notion that, in the early 2020s, the U.S. government allows individuals to enjoy 12 hours of continuous lawlessness for one day every year. (As it's explained in this film series, the Purge has been instrumental in reducing the crime rate by allowing people to unleash their darkest tendencies during this sanctioned annual event.)

Where The Purge focused on a family (led by Ethan Hawke) under siege at their home by masked murders, Anarchy follows a group of disparate, innocent characters who find themselves on the street the night of the Purge looking for sanctuary. Their saviour comes in the form of an unnamed man (Frank Grillo) who wants vengeance for the death of his son. (In the film's press notes, he's identified as Leo, although that name is never spoken during the movie and is not used to identify the character, who's simply labelled "Sergeant," in the end credits.) After seeing the helpless individuals around him, though, he puts aside his Purge plans in order to protect them from the city's bloodthirsty roving mobs.

With nods to Escape From New York and other R-rated action movies, The Purge: Anarchy is, at heart, a zombie film, DeMonaco pitting our main characters against a seemingly never-ending supply of approaching marauders. (The fact that the Purge enthusiasts wear masks only strengthens the similarity to their ghoulish, undead counterparts.)

Grillo's square-jawed protagonist is cut from the same cloth as Kurt Russell's Snake Plissken, cracking no jokes while ably flaunting his lethal talent for firearms. (The character's backstory is kept teasingly vague throughout most of Anarchy, but the implication is that he has previous experience with weapons.) The actor, who has been impressive in supporting turns lately in Warrior and The Grey, easily conveys this unnamed man's stoic heroism and buried anguish. More importantly, Grillo is a commanding onscreen presence, which is critical since he's playing a stereotypically larger-than-life everyman protector. …

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