‘The Purge: Anarchy’ Movie Review – Agent of Chaos?
Yesterday was the six-year anniversary of Christopher Nolan’s stellar film The Dark Knight (I know this because I’ve watched the movie each July 18th since its release). In the film, the Joker (famously played by Heath Ledger) proclaims that introducing anarchy upsets the established order and creates chaos. He goes on to say that chaos is essentially fear. Interestingly, The Purge: Anarchy argues about the opposite, saying that their annual purge keeps order in society. Unlike the first movie (simply titled The Purge), James DeMonaco’s sequel at least explores how the purge affects society. This makes it a marketably better film than the first even if that measuring stick doesn’t say a whole lot.
For those that can’t remember (or simply haven’t seen last year’s The Purge), the premise behind both movies is (and no this isn’t sarcasm) extraordinarily interesting. Every year, U.S. citizens are granted 12 hours of free reign on any and all crime. During this 12 hour span, you can choose to murder, steal, or whatever…or you can hunker down and try to stay alive.
I didn’t get a chance to see The Purge until two days ago and found myself really disappointed with how contained the story was. Since it is such an interesting premise, confining the story to essentially one family and home really hindered the film.
Therefore, I was excited to see The Purge: Anarchy mitigate this problem right away. From the beginning, you can tell Anarchy cares less about the individual characters and more about the event as a whole. This is undoubtedly a good thing and leads to some really brutal footage while exploring some of the psychology behind it all.
This isn’t to say there aren’t valuable characters within the film. In fact, the Sergeant (Frank Grillo), a pseudo-vigilante of sorts, comes in as the most interesting addition. Besides him, there are two other groups that help weave three storylines together right in the middle of the annual purge. Structure-wise, this keeps the movie a lot more interesting compared to its original.
However, with an added 20 minutes of runtime, Anarchy does still stretch itself thin with the tiresome cat-and-mouse game. This comes to a head when Anarchy steals simultaneously from Richard Connell’s “The Most Dangerous Game” and The Hunger Games.
Still, I have to give DeManoco some credit for his reach in the script. For a thriller/horror, the first film played it far too safe. Anarchy, on the other hand, lines up multiple social issues, taking on the 1% and the violent nature of society, and doesn’t back down.
Reviews based on comparison can be a dangerous thing. When comparing The Purge: Anarchy to its predecessor for example, it is easy to call this a great movie. In the end, there are still too many flaws, primarily the tiresome plot complications, to make this anywhere near a great film. At this point, though, I’ll take a decent movie even if it doesn’t quite live up to the fantastic potential set forth by the premise.
Maybe The Purge: Solitude (or whatever the inevitable sequel is titled) will close the gap even more.
The Purge: Anarchy is one of three films opening in wide theaters this weekend. Check it out if it sounds interesting.
Follow me on Twitter @jmacle