“The unwritten Purge rule: don't save lives. Tonight we take lives. We make things manageable.”
James DeMonaco returns as the director and writer of the sequel to his 2013 film, The Purge. My expectations for this sequel were extremely low because I didn’t like The Purge and thought the premise was ridiculous, but if you enjoyed the first film then you will definitely like this one. I’d like to begin my review by focusing on what did work for this sequel before I get to its weaknesses. First of all, The Purge: Anarchy is a huge improvement over its predecessor. While the first film followed the conventions of a home invasion horror film, this sequel takes the original premise and establishes the action in a much wider setting. It doesn’t set out to repeat the same things from its predecessor. This sequel takes us to the streets where we can see how the purge takes place out in the open where the danger is eminent. Considering that the characters were the least interesting part of The Purge, this time the story doesn’t center on one family, but gives us three different storylines and later brings them together. This makes up for the lack of character development in the film and allows for the movie to be more entertaining. It is a B picture that gives its target audience what they are looking for. The second positive thing this sequel has going for it is the lead performance from Frank Grillo. He delivers as a smooth action star despite the weaknesses of the screenplay. He is the only engaging character in the entire franchise.
Despite that The Purge Anarchy is much better than its predecessor, it still is a flawed film full of horror cliches and unimaginative characters. The film relies on jump scares that never work. All it seemed to be doing at times was suddenly turning up the volume when things were quiet in order to shock or unsettle its audience. The characters never seem to make smart decisions and they all rely on Grillo’s lead performance. With all the horrible crimes he drives through during his purge mission, we never quite understand why he would care for these two particular characters he stops for in order to save them. It was simply an easy way to reunite the different storylines, but I didn’t find anything unique in that mother and daughter relationship that he would be interested in assisting. Its not like he was painted as a saint during the opening scenes where he drove past several people crying out for help. The sequel also tries to be an interesting parody of our society and a slick social commentary, but it isn’t really as smart as it thinks it is. Every time I heard the phrase our “new founding fathers” my ears bled and I couldn’t help but finding it silly. The film also is heavy handed on its rich versus poor commentary, and it is something we see often in adaptations from YA books. The villains never post a significant threat either, but Grillo elevates the source material with his smooth performance. The rest of the characters I couldn’t really care less for.