A couple are driving home when their car breaks down just as the Purge commences. Meanwhile, a police sergeant goes out into the streets to get revenge on the man who killed his son, and a mother and daughter run from their home after assailants destroy it. The five people meet up as they attempt to survive the night in Los Angeles.
It should come as no surprise that this story got a sequel. The original was a surprise box office smash, especially in comparison to its anemic $3 million budget. While I like the concept of the first film (not philosophically of course, just as an interesting movie plot), I didn’t really like it overall and the budget was part of the problem. It felt like I was watching “Panic House” more than anything and the ending was disappointing.
Fortunately, The Purge: Anarchy was a better finished product. It was what the first film should have been. The budget was bigger and the cast was bigger, allowing the overall scale to be bigger. Of course it wasn’t a massive production, but they definitely stretched their $9 million budget as far as possible and I was more entertained than some films with 10 times that budget (Pompeii, I’m looking at you…).
I was familiar with several actors this time around which was a nice surprise. Frank Grillo, the protagonist anti-hero, has been on a roll lately. I remember him from Guiding Light in the 90s, but more recently he’s been moving up with his crucial supporting role in Captain America: The Winter Soldier (still my favorite movie of the year if anyone was wondering), and now we get to see him be a total badass here at 51 years young. And I mean “young” because you’d never guess that was his age by looking at him. His character spends most of the time being shrouded in mystery to his reluctant companions so that added to the tension among the cast. You could never really tell if he was going to ultimately do the right thing. Michael K. Williams (The Wire and Boardwalk Empire) is a favorite actor of mine and I thought he handled his role as a resistance leader very well. I wish he had more screen time and we got to see a little more from his perspective, but he was effective enough.
This film focuses more on how The Purge affects people of all social classes and their motivations can be surprisingly different, so there were some moments I found thought-provoking. It’s a morbid social experiment played out on screen but you can’t help but wonder, what if our lives were really like this? What would you do? It’s a great film for discussion. I would probably try to leave the country but imagine the mass exodus around Purge time and the skyrocketing ticket prices. And how would you protect your property or loved-ones? It’s easy to yell at the screen when someone makes a stupid decision, but would you do the same thing in their shoes? Would it change the country’s life expectancy? How does the country adjust to losing a large portion of the population in one fell swoop? What is the average death toll? As I said, it makes me wonder.
This film is not for everybody. I took it for what it was and it exceeded my expectations. I could probably watch this film again when it makes it to television. If you saw the first one then I definitely recommend this one as it’s an all around better film.