The Purge: Anarchy” is a sequel to last year’s “The Purge” and recycles that film’s cockeyed premise: In the near future, during a single 12-hour period every year, Americans are free to commit any crime they choose, no matter how cruel or bloody.
The event is called the “purge,” and participants are encouraged to “release the beast.” The purge is sponsored by the U.S. government, under the control of the “New Founding Fathers,” clearly intended as a portrayal of extreme conservatives. Their goal is to reduce the population of poor people and troublemakers.
The film is made up of long stretches of intense and gory violence as the streets are taken over by murderous loonies, scenes that are occasionally interrupted by episodes of ham-handed social commentary and satire. I’m guessing that not a lot of effort was expended on the dialogue.
The movie is basically an extended chase sequence, as a troubled and heavily armed man (Frank Grillo) participating in the purge reluctantly agrees to lead a group of innocents to safety. They are a waitress (Carmen Ejogo) and her brash daughter (Zoa Soul), and a young couple (Zach Gilford, Kiele Sanchez) on the verge of breaking up.
There is an unmistakable racial theme here; the waitress and daughter are Hispanic, and there is opposition to the government, and to the purge, by a rebellious group of black men under a charismatic leader (Michael K. Williams). The idea is that the right-wingers running the show are intent on killing off marginalized ethnic groups.
The sources that clearly influenced filmmaker James DeMonaco (who also wrote and directed the first “Purge”) are many: movies by Wes Craven, the “Mad Max” series, blaxploitation pictures, “Escape from New York” and maybe a pinch of “The Hunger Games.”
The “power to the people” theme will please some, even in this caricatured form, and there are plenty for fans of ultra-violence. But the reliance on standard-issue scare tactics, the thinness of the characters and the absurdities of the premise suggest that the movie will find its main audience on DVD and VOD.