Some sequels are superior than their predecessor, than there are those that aren’t. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is clearly not better than its predecessor, but that really isn’t saying much since the first film set the bar so low. And considering how other sequels this year are better their predecessor, it should be interesting to see which sequel isn’t better than the first film. So while The Purge wasn’t the best film last year, it’s concept did lend itself to have a franchise. And thanks in part to The Purge‘s huge success, Universal went ahead and greenlit a sequel.
The Purge: Anarchy does what every sequel is suppose to do. Be different, but also use the foundation that has already been set. Introduce new character that will bring a new dynamic to the potential franchise. Just be better than the first film. And that is what The Purge: Anarchy does. Not only is it darker than the first, but it is so much more engaging and thrilling as well. It’s the kind of the grittty edge of your seat thriller that is fun, but could have you converse about the political issues that is brought up. Hit the jump for the full review.
In The Purge, we got to see what it was like for an upper class family trying to survive a 12-hour ordeal where all crime is legal. A year later, we visit a new group of people, who come from different walks of life, who will try to survive the night. There’s Leo (Frank Grillo), a grieving father who is seeking revenge on the man who killed his son; Shane (Zach Gilford) and Liz (Kiele Sanchez), a young couple trying to make it home before the commencement of The Purge; and Eva (Carmen Ejogo) and Cali (Zoe Soul), a mother and daughter who can’t afford the security system necessary to protect them from The Purge. Forces will bring them together, and together they must survive this murderous ordeal, while Leo will do whatever he can to get his revenge.
What The Purge: Anarchy does that makes it better than its predecessor is that it actually explores the socio-economic difficulties of the new America. Despite crime and poverty being at all time lows, there are those who still struggle with affording the means necessary to protect themselves from killers. That’s where Eva and Cali come in. They live in a low-income area, as noted by the barred windows, the dark alleys, the shoddy environments, and also some of the people. Leo is holed up in one of these low-income apartments, and has spent the better part of his life planning to participate in The Purge for the sole purpose of getting revenge. You get a sense of just how much he is greiving, and how much of his life he has put into this effort just by looking at how spare and empty his apartment is. You also get to see just how much Leo is suffering, when he can even make a basic human connection to his now ex-wife, whom he even drives away and ask that she just move on to her new family. Leo is basically a badass with a 10 foot thick by 10 foot high badass brick wall. As you might expect, that wall will come down brick by brick as the film progresses.
It isn’t so much of a problem, considering that it does show us how a character like Leo develops. Eva and Cali play as his conscious. But the weakest part of the film is easily Shane and Liz. A fairly predictable couple, who have no one else to blame but themselves for being stuck out in the open during The Purge. By the time we see them for the first time, it’s fairy obvious that this is the one couple that will probably bite the dust, it’s only how they die that will be the interesting thing. It’s hard to believe that any one person would willingly drive out onto the streets of LA two hours before the Purge commences, but they do, and for it to be for story sake, kind makes the relationship of the two hollow.
While Leo’s character is fantastic, what The Purge: Anarchy does that The Purge didn’t do as well is that it shows the flip side of those who are unable to afford protection. We even get to see a glimpse of that divide when people are offering their services to protect those who cannot protect themselves. It basically comes down to being a war between the haves and the have nots. Perhaps the darkest part of this movie comes when Leo and his group are captured, and auctioned off like dogs. To see that these people are capable of buying lives for the thrill of killing and not being punished for the murder, just shows how great the divide of the have and have nots are in this film. And it is a bit of a reflection on our society as well, and I think that is what could stir a conversation about our socio-economics or views on violence.
We do get to see some aspects of purpose of The Purge failing when an underground group lead by Carmelo (Michael K. Williams) is releasing propaganda videos calling for an end of The Purge and a stop to the New Founding Fathers. While he don’t get to see a whole lot of Carmelo, this subplot does open the door for the possibility of a sequel, should one happen.
But just because it is better than the first film, doesn’t mean it is the best film of the year. Once again, the film hangs on the idea that people have to commit these crimes, because if they don’t The Purge or The Purge: Anarchy would not exist. Now, director James DeManico based the film and its sequel on the notion that every human being has a dark side, and that is true. But truly, if any of these people were smart, they would high tail it to a remote desert or fly to a country where The Purge does not exist. But there really wouldn’t be much of a story if it were that easy, and I think that’s why it works by bringing in the socio-econimic difficulties. Not everyone can afford the means necessary to fly out let alone build a fortress.
So, despite some of the character flaws and loopholes, we still can enjoy The Purge: Anarchy for what it is, a grizzly-thrilling-edge-of-your-seat entertainment.