For those who missed out on the turd that was The Purge, here is a quick rundown of the premise. In the near future, America has descended into lawlessness and a right wing political organization called the New Founding Fathers has come to power, smacking down crime and bringing general prosperity. In order to keep that prosperity, the NFF invents the annual “Purge”—a 12-hour free-for-all where all crime is legal. Of course, because this is a movie and not real life, everyone jumps straight to murder as their crime of choice. So unlike the last film that focused on one family in one house, The Purge: Anarchy takes to the streets to tell the stories of multiple characters who get thrown together during the annual Purge. The main story, though, focuses on Frank Grillo’s character, who is intending to go out and purge to avenge the death of his son the previous year. He has armed himself to the teeth in order to survive the city and has even outfitted his car with steel plating. He runs across some people who get into trouble and his conscience kicks in. At that moment he basically becomes a vigilante as he helps these strangers to safety. There are also political overtones in the form of internet revolutionary Carmelo (Michael K. Williams) and in the actions of Big Daddy (Jack Conley), but they are inserted into the story in a very ham-fisted fashion. The bulk of the story is about Grillo’s character and his mission.
While the setting and premise of this installment of The Purge are better than the last movie, the film is still weak in the script department. There are several instances of characters just vomiting up exposition as opposed to real dialogue and in regards to Big Daddy’s true motivations, they’re simply tacked on so awkwardly, he might as well have been talking directly into the camera when he explained himself. There are some nice scenes, though, that show the different aspects of the Purge and how different people do it, i.e. rich vs. poor. But a lot of these scenes are just that, scenes that don’t add up to a satisfying whole. The problem still remains, however, that this is still only about ten years in the future and it’s really hard to believe that this would be going on just two presidential elections from now. The premise could definitely support a very good thriller, but the producers need a better screenplay.
The acting is serviceable for the most part with Grillo, Conley, and Williams being the big names here. Grillo is on the screen the longest and is a commanding presence. His name isn’t revealed until the end, but they might as well have called him The Punisher, because that’s who he evoked the whole film. If he hadn’t already appeared in the latest Captain America film, I’d have said Marvel should indeed cast him as Frank Castle. Conley is barely in the film, but is his usual intimidating self, while Williams channels outrage well enough, but I almost would have preferred to see him more as an Omar rip-off character instead, especially in this film and setting.
Overall, with such a schlocky script, it’s tough to take The Purge: Anarchy seriously. However, it is not as willfully stupid as the original movie. A better setting and premise definitely elevate the game, but the producers still need a killer script to make this a decent thriller franchise.
The Purge: Anarchy is in theaters on July 18, 2014.