As difficult to swallow as The Purge‘s central conceit is, where for one night each year the American government sanctions rampant violence in aid of keeping the peace every other day, the one thing the sequel Anarchy needed to avoid was plunging deeper into the murky abyss of its details. While the first film wasn’t great, it at least kept the focus on a single family, besieged by those wanting to purge. This time director James DeMonaco takes the action to the streets, and sprawls his story across a group of disparate, cardboard characters, leaving the audience with nothing to do but parse out the ridiculousness of it all.
Sadly, The Purge: Anarchy betrays its own name by capitulating to its summer release date, incessantly moralizing and contradicting itself by imposing the same old rules of poetic justice against its backdrop of forced nihilism The last thing I want to hear in a story that embraces a ritualistic, violent cleanse is how killing is wrong, while at the same time patronizing me by gleefully dispatching the easily targeted 1%.
It doesn’t help that each scene in the film seems to exist inside a vacuum, with the sheer scope of it all betraying DeMonaco’s limitations as a director. Anarchy feels like a video game where each set piece is its own isolated moment, unburdened by anything that came before, and containing no information that will ever be needed again. Frank Grillo is capable but ultimately ineffective as Sergeant, as DeMonaco keeps his motivation a secret until the very end for no reason at all since he possesses zero ambiguity. The film is missing not only the presence of an actor like Ethan Hawke, but also the pathos that was in his character.
The Purge: Anarchy is a huge disappointment that exists solely because its predecessor was a near hundred million dollar success. The way it placates its audience, there’s no question it’s trying to reach the same heights. Perhaps one day when this series is finally relegated to home video we’ll get a sequel that isn’t afraid to challenge its audience, you know, the people who would line up for something like this, instead of those spilling over from the sold out Transformers playing in the adjacent auditorium.
The Verdict: Pan