The year is 2023 (exactly one year after the events of the first film) and crime is still virtually non-existent, poverty is vanishing, and unemployment is below %5 - thanks to an annual event called the “Purge,” in which all criminal activities, including murder, are legal for 12 hours. This milestone was created by the New Founding Fathers of the United States as a solution to economic and judicial downturns. In the context of the film, it’s actually known as a holiday. It starts with a countdown (2 hours, 26 minutes) until the commencement, immediately orchestrating anticipation for the brutality ahead. Traffic is hectic, masked cutthroats sadistically brandish their weaponry, and prognosticators insist that more people will participate tonight than ever before.
Shane (Zach Gilford) and Liz (Kiele Sanchez), a young couple contemplating a separation, are headed to a family member’s house for the evening, taking the back roads to avoid crowded highways. But when their car breaks down under a downtown bridge, it’s clear they’ve been sabotaged to become victims for hungry purgers. Meanwhile, waitress Eva (Carmen Ejogo) and her daughter Cali (Zoe Soul) board up their apartment, hoping for another uneventful occasion. When the two females are attacked by a spiteful acquaintance (his intention is to rape and murder them both), they’re momentarily saved by a squadron of soldiers, collecting bodies for a distinctly abominable man. But before the two can be executed by this new threat, a stranger (Frank Grillo) rescues them and, reluctantly, takes them with him on his own mission of personal vengeance to kill the man who recklessly committed vehicular manslaughter against his son – and walked free based on a prosecution error.
“I hope to see you all tomorrow,” casually remarks a coworker, quickly drawing to the audience’s attention the silliness of the premise. Fortunately, as this is more of a horror film than its predecessors, the unlikeliness of most of the happenings in the film are regularly overshadowed by jump scares, slow motion, intrusive close-ups, loud music and louder noises (screams routinely pierce the twilight air), and gaps of silence before sudden frights. Along with these clichés are unnecessarily interspersed political propaganda, questionable governmental intentions, scrutiny of the corruption of values, profiteering, and proclamations of love interrupted by gunfire – and oodles of bloody violence. Contrived scenarios also arise, including a random rat crawling up a leg, Eva falling down while being chased, and the prying young Cali unrestrainedly asking annoying questions – which inevitably support how morally wrong the Purge is, in case viewers get too enthusiastically caught up in the revenge fantasy.
The scope of “The Purge: Anarchy” has increased, but perhaps too much. Three separate stories interact yet still require their own individual outcomes. Part of this involves a satirical examination of the wealthy using expensive, hi-tech weaponry (the allowed Class 4 arms are never adequately defined), paying for willing martyrs to slaughter in the safety of their own homes (resembling something out of “Dexter” or “Hostel” but with the falseness of near-religious, family-oriented, machete-wielding savageness, as if any rich person dreams of gruesomely butchering a defenseless human), or conducting their own “The Running Man” voyeuristic entertainment doubling as sport - for the truly daring. One good samaritan thrillingly turns into a force to be reckoned with, though the abundance of characters downplays his awesomeness, which culminates in the cathartic finale that was so disappointingly absent from the first film. It’s difficult to call this product an improvement, as the storyline is far removed from the freshness, claustrophobic environment, and intimate focus of the original, but much of it is nevertheless admittedly nerve-wracking.
- The Massie Twins (GoneWithTheTwins.com)