Thursday, July 17, 2014
Review: "The Purge: Anarchy"
Who would you kill?
That's the lure of "The Purge: Anarchy," the sly sequel to the successful low-budget horror film from just last year. As you may recall, the setup is that in a dystopian near-future American, one night a year everyone is allowed to murder, maim and rape without consequence -- the notion being that by "cleansing" ourselves of negative emotions, it makes for a more harmonious republic.
(Unless you're one of the ones being cleansed, of course.)
Personally, I can't say as I've ever had a overwhelming urge to kill another human being. Oh, there was that boss who treated employees like chattel, and anyone who kicks a dog is deserving of a good smacking around, just on general principle.
But blood and death? I don't need that in my dreams. And maybe I'm naive, but I don't think the vast majority of other people would, either.
So writer/director James DeMonaco, who also helmed the first film, starts off with a premise that is pretty whack. But like a flowering plant that is garish and goofy on the surface, sometimes there are roots that go down further than you'd expect. And that's the case with "Anarchy."
Abandoning most of the horror film tropes of the original flick, the sequel falls more into thriller/drama territory. There are a lot of shoot-em-ups and grisly scenes of mayhem. But the meat of the story is one of revenge and redemption, with a strong message about the rich preying on the weak.
As the Commencement, as it's called by the New Founding Fathers of America, approaches for the year 2023, a backlash has started to rise. There's an Internet prophet (Michael K. Williams) railing against the system, claiming the wealthy and powerful are using the purge to weed out the poor and weak.
It's also notable that most of the purgers are white, while the bulk of their victims are brown people.
"Change will come when their blood spills!" urges the leader of the 99 percenters.
Most people, though, are just scared and prefer to wait things out behind barricaded doors.
But not our never-named protagonist. Played by Frank Grillo, a recognizable actor who often portrays heavies and second fiddles, our man has apparently been planning for the purge for a long time. He's got an arsenal of guns, an armored car and a sour attitude. He's out to get someone, though the reasons remain hazy.
Then he comes across Eva (Carmen Ejoga) and Cali (Zoe Soul), a mother and daughter who have been torn from their apartment by a squad of militaristic goons. He stops to save them, and before long they've added a yuppie couple (Zach Gilford and Kiele Sanchez) to the mix, and he's saddled with a whole troupe of innocents to look after.
The group wends its way through downtown Los Angeles, getting into all sorts of bizarre scrapes and encounters with gangs in fright masks and whatnot. (The creepiest antagonists roam around in a semi-tractor trailer; the ominous Big Daddy is their leader.) It's reminiscent of "The Warriors," another ludicrous-yet-evocative glimpse of a chaotic future where roving bands of bloodthirsty tribes seek each other out for pointless exchanges of brutality.
Some sequences are just rote action -- typical machine gun fire and sweaty urgency. Others drive home the us-versus-them theme with delicious panache. A real fist-pumping turn of events is when the friendlies are captured and auctioned off to super-rich purgers, but then they flip the script.
"The Purge: Anarchy" is one of those movies that seems really silly at first. And it is. But it's also got some disturbing things to say.