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'The Purge: Anarchy' review: A diluted vindication

The Purge: Anarchy


"The Purge: Anarchy" begins its nationwide theatrical run starting today.

Frank Grillo as Leo Barnes.
Frank Grillo as Leo Barnes.
Photo courtesy of Universal pictures, used with permission.
The official theatrical poster for "The Purge: Anarchy."
Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures, used with permission.

"The Purge" has a concept that is almost ingenious as long as you don't ponder the consequences for too long. All crime is legal for 12 consecutive hours starting at 7:00pm on March 21 and ending at 7:00am on March 22. In "The Purge: Anarchy," you follow a few different stories that eventually intersect.

Everything in the film revolves around a man named Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo). Leo is looking for retribution for his son's death and expects to get his much needed vengeance this very night.

Eva Sanchez (Carmen Ejogo) struggles to make ends meet working at a diner and attempting to pay for her father's medicine. She hopes to survive the annual Purge in order to provide for not only her father, but her daughter Cali (Zoe Soul) as well. Shane (Zach Gilford) and Liz (Kiele Sanchez) are a couple on the cusp of a separation attempting to make it somewhere safe for the night yet find themselves in an unreliable car at the worst possible time.

What brought the first film down so much were the downright idiotic decisions some of the characters (mostly Charlie) made. Similar decisions drag the overall enjoyment of the sequel down in to the gutter. Leo knows that it's a dumb idea to save Eva and Cali when it isn't his business, but he does so anyway. The trio then crosses paths with Shane and Liz and they basically stick together the rest of the film. It's amusing to think that all of them are scared stupid by the fact they were just saved by a man armed to the teeth wanting to Purge and yet he's practically their savior by the halfway point of the film.

All crime is legal during the annual Purge; that means not just murder. "The Purge: Anarchy" makes it seem like hanging out around banks is a safe haven during this dangerous night which seems to shove the franchise into a very limited corner. So people only want to kill during The Purge? Nobody is trying to pull off a heist to become rich? What about sex or drugs? Those acts of delinquency don't flourish to exceptional new heights this time of year? The Purge could be a very interesting franchise, but it refuses to try and is therefore completely dull.

The first film wasn't afraid to show a few deaths on screen. Ethan Hawke had that one brutally entertaining fight that was pretty fun. You don't see enough of that in the sequel to the action thriller. The film still relies on jump scares to entice its audience, but it's more about the hunt than anything else. Toying with your prey with little execution seems to be the running theme of "The Purge: Anarchy."

Frank Grillo does absolutely everything he can to not only deliver a fantastic performance, but make this film worthwhile. He is the main reason to watch the film and the sequel feels like it's almost built around the final few minutes where Grillo crams all of his talent into the delivery of a handful of lines. Auctioning off those unfortunate enough to be out during The Purge to the rich is also a unique twist, but it fails to go as far as you hope.

"The Purge: Anarchy" fails to give the sensation that an impending and violent death is just around the corner. The violence seems toned down in the sequel, especially when the only really gruesome death in the film is completely, noticeably, and poorly computer generated.

Frank Grillo is as remarkable as humanly possible and there are a few concepts that are unexpectedly enjoyable, but "The Purge: Anarchy" mostly flops thanks to its boring direction and failure to follow through with what the human brain anticipates during one eventful night with no rules. It's like being handed the keys to the kingdom and spending all your time in a broom closet.

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