“Spider-Man 2”. “The Two Towers”. “The Purge: Anarchy.” Bet you never guessed those three films would be mentioned together, yet here they are. And what do all these films have in common? They are all sequels that vastly improve upon their predecessors.
Set in the year 2023, America has been “reborn” (as the film reminds you a dozen times) due to one night a year where all crime is legal. A stranded couple, a kidnapped mother and daughter, and a man out for revenge are all left on the streets when the annual “Purge” commences, and must team up to survive the night. James DeMonaco, writer/director from the first film, returns.
The first “Purge” film was very meh. It had an interesting premise, but that’s about as far as it got. It really didn’t take advantage of its “no laws” world, and instead opted to become a basic shoot-em-up home invasion thriller. With “Purge: Anarchy”, the filmmakers actually listened to the audience and gave us what we wanted: a glance at a world where all crime is legal.
The characters in this sequel are much more relatable, and much more intelligent, than those in the first. Frank Grillo, who is very underrated but a boss in most every role he takes, steals the show as a man who is trying to get revenge for his son’s wrongful death. He is the leader of the ragtag group, and is the glue that holds the film together. He’s much more entertaining than Ethan Hawke’s rich daddy role in the last film. You feel sympathy for the other characters, too, but you never feel any real emotional connection to them, which is pretty standard in a horror-action film.
That brings up another aspect where “Anarchy” improves: it doesn’t try to be an actual horror film and instead knows it’s an action thriller, that implements moments of tension and shock. There are some genuinely edgy parts of this film, especially when the group is lurking around the dark streets of Los Angeles, trying to stay out of sight from maniacs.
Now the film isn’t perfect, and most of the flaws are the same thing that held the first film down, albeit this time they aren’t as prevalent. There are still some dull moments, particularly those leading up to the commencement of the Purge, and there are still some horror film clichés, such as people tripping for no reason and cars dying just as they are needed most. Although, the film does give a solid explanation for the car’s battery failing, enough that I didn’t roll my eyes, so I’ll give them some points.
I enjoyed “The Purge: Anarchy”, probably for the same reasons most people will: it’s much better than the first film, and it actually delivers on its creative promise. Grillo is engaging, the action is very well shot and the immersing into this twisted world is very convincing. You can’t take a film like this too seriously, and it may try and reach too far towards social and political commentary, but if you take it at face value, “The Purge: Anarchy” is a fun time at the movies.
Critics Rating: 7/10