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Review: "The Purge: Anarchy" is an intelligent, thought-provoking sequel

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Last year, a little thriller called “The Purge” showed a United States virtually free of crime and economic hardship. In this fictional country, the New Founding Fathers of America (NFFA) allowed citizens 12 hours each year to indulge their darkest desires without repercussions. During that time, one must either purge or “stay safe” in their homes or apartments.

Surprisingly enough, this was one intelligent film that far exceeded the typical slasher/horror film. It imagined a world where the guy next door spends hours before the Purge sharpening his knives in the backyard. Neighbors who cheerfully dine at your dinner table may just be plotting to shoot you as well.

“The Purge: Anarchy” continues the story, but features a new crop of characters. Sarge (Frank Grillo) takes to the streets in his armor-plated vehicle with revenge on his mind. Ironically enough, he saves the lives of Eva (Carmen Ejogo) and her daughter Cali (Zoe Soul) after they are snatched from their apartment.

Director/writer James DeMonaco expands his twisted universe and even shows one man martyring himself to the rich to provide for his family. The NFFA also reveal their hidden motivations behind the annual Purge, including how the poor and underprivileged are targeted for elimination.

DeMonaco shows the various ways determined people can harm each other. From a woman with a bullhorn and a machine gun to animal traps in the streets, there’s no shortage of mayhem and death. None of these situations feels forced or gratuitous, though. Indeed, DeMonaco has clearly thought this story through.

Frank Grillo turns in an intriguing performance as Sarge, the reluctant hero of the piece. Despite his body armor and impressive weapons, Sarge remains a conflicted man. Though he stays true to his personal mission, he saves yet another couple, Liz (Kiele Sanchez) and Shane (Zach Gilford) who are reluctantly on the streets.

“The Purge: Anarchy” also targets the wealthy and privileged. Not brave enough to purge in the streets, the rich pay big money to hunt hapless victims who have been captured. One militant group even uses the free-for-all to strike back at what they consider to be a corrupt government.

Smart yet frightening, “The Purge: Anarchy” is a small, meaningful film franchise with a lot to say. At time, it feels like a “Twilight Zone” episode gone rogue, but the story is solid and enjoyable.

“The Purge: Anarchy,” rated R for language and strong, disturbing violence, currently is playing in theaters.

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