Not being the biggest fan of last year’s home invasion-oriented The Purge, I was hopeful that returning writer/director James DeMonaco would find a way to nail down his promising premise with his follow-upand boy, does he deliver. Not only does The Purge: Anarchy address so many of the questions I was left with after the original, but it also amps up the action, story, and mythology, and gives us likable and engaging characters to root for this time around.
If you saw The Purge, you pretty much already know the basics going into the sequel. As a way to keep crime and unemployment to a minimum, the New Founders of America created the annual Purge where the “haves” in this new world can cleanse their souls with violence against the “have-nots” when killing is made legal for 12 hours throughout the country. This time, DeMonaco takes his story to downtown Los Angeles where a group of five strangers are forced to come together in order to survive the hellish night as they’re relentlessly stalked by various groups of maniacs and killers lurking in the streets.
While DeMonaco’s first attempt at the Purge universe was meant to be more of a claustrophobic game of cat-and-mouse, The Purge: Anarchy feels much bigger and far more action-oriented than its predecessor, almost like DeMonaco’s love letter to all the revenge-fueled, gritty action crime thrillers of the late 70’s and early 80’s so many of us also grew up loving. Because DeMonaco is giving us a taste for the horrors that many of the less fortunate face on the dubious day for the sequel, it truly allows the audience to empathize with these characters, something that was sorely lacking from the first film.
Frank Grillo, best known from his roles in Warrior, The Grey and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, plays the reluctant hero in The Purge: Anarchy. We learn early on that his character is on a revenge mission, but his focus changes once he crosses paths with several unlucky folks get stranded on the streets during the deadliest night of the year. He must now keep his new companions safe as they’re continuously hunted down by militant madmen, Mad Max-esque tribes of killers, and groups of hooded thugs, just to name a few.
By adding a variety of bad guys here, DeMonaco gives The Purge: Anarchy a bit of The Punisher meets The Warriors vibe, which is something I instantaneously fell in love with. Essentially, what it all comes down to is that if you can appreciate the sight of masked psychos flying down abandoned train tracks on tricked-out dune buggies set on fire, then you’re exactly who The Purge: Anarchy was meant for. A vast improvement and a more well-conceived concept this time around, The Purge: Anarchy is a ridiculous amount of fun and Grillo is truly one of the better cinematic anti-heroes we’ve seen in some time.
Movie Score: 4/5