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The Purge: Anarchy

by Padraic Maroney
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Friday Jul 18, 2014
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A scene from 'The Purge: Anarchy'
A scene from 'The Purge: Anarchy'  (Source:Universal Pictures)

If crime was legal for one night each year, would you take advantage of it or hide away in the safety of your home? Most people, presumably, would prefer to be home and not on the (quite literally) mean streets. After 2012's "The Purge" exposed how the wealthy one percent live during the purge, its sequel shows how the rest of the population handles the "holiday." The filmmakers attempt to fix some of the problems fans had with the first film, but "The Purge: Anarchy" proves that they still don't know what they are doing when it comes to creating a terrifying experience.

A year after the events in "The Purge," the annual purge -- which makes all crime legal for a 12-hour period -- is about to commence when a young couple's car breaks down. As the clock ticks down to the kick-off of the purge, they look for a safe place to ride out the night. Meanwhile, a young mother and her teenage daughter get attacked and are saved by a mysterious man who is out for the night to seek revenge for his son's death. As a group, the quintet must evade danger on every street corner throughout downtown Los Angeles while trying to make it to the safety of a friend's apartment building.

Despite being a surprise hit, the original film was less than positively received by critics and fans alike. Considering the reaction, it's somewhat surprising that the sequel was green lit and released so quickly. James DeMonaco, returning as both director and writer, attempts to correct the mistakes from the first one by moving the action to the streets. In doing so, he borrows heavily from the 1993 thriller "Judgement Night" before throwing in a dash of "Hostel" for good measure. Unlike those movies, "The Purge: Anarchy" is less focused in its scope than either of those films.

The lack of focus in "The Purge: Anarchy" is most obvious with the multiple sets of villains terrorizing the characters. There are multiple groups fighting for attention throughout the film until the climax when everything finally converges. Adding to the cluttered film is DeMonaco's not-so-subtle attempt to make a social commentary about the economic inequality within the country. Bringing all of these elements together creates an uneven tone that never really puts the viewer on the edge of their seats -- instead you might find yourself slumped over falling asleep.

DeMonaco has also forgotten the key rule for horror movies: You have to care about the characters when putting them in peril. Especially in this type of film, you need to root for the characters to survive. While the film takes almost the entire first act to create unnecessary backstory for most of the characters, most of the exposition here barely comes up later and only delays the action from getting started. Another cardinal sin he commits is having the main characters as observers to the deaths and action. While they are definitely put into danger, rarely is there is there a sense that any of them are in jeopardy of actually dying.

It's a shame the actors aren't given more to work with, besides cookie cutter stereotypes, because a solid cast has been assembled. Frank Grillo makes the biggest statement as the leader of the group. His is the role that has the most versatility to it, as a father looking for revenge and also a mercenary charged with taking the rag tag group to safety. Carmen Ejogo infuses her character with sympathy, though it is diminished by a reveal late in the film.

While it would seem to make for a more compelling film to see that everyone uses the purge to let out his aggressions by murdering random bystanders, would that be the most commonly committed crime? You would think that smaller crimes, such as theft and vandalism, would be more widely committed. But "The Purge: Anarchy" doesn't always take logic into consideration. The film is more concerned with trying to make a statement than it is scaring the pants off of the audience. In order to keep this franchise from unleashing a slew of unnecessary sequels like "Paranormal Activity" and "Saw," you should exercise your given right to purge your viewing palate by steering clear of any theater playing this film.

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