The solemn, black and white titles during the opening moments set the scene. The year is 2023. Unemployment is five percent. Fewer and fewer people live below the poverty line. Crime is virtually absent, and the population is kept to a manageable level, all because of … the Purge. What the titles don’t mention is that it’s also a crock.
The sequel to last year’s action/horror The Purge, now called The Purge: Anarchy differs considerably from the original. This time we see a much broader picture of what’s happening on the streets of America during the twelve hours when all crime, including murder, is perfectly legal. “Hope to see you all tomorrow,” says a manager to her waitress staff in a restaurant with just two hours and twenty-six minutes to go. “Stay safe.”
All of our protective services such as the police and humanitarian areas such as hospitals are closed. All you can do is board up your homes, bolt the doors and stay out of sight in the hope that the crazies who are given a blank check to exorcise their inner demons will pass you by. Of course, you can also flood the borders into either Canada or Mexico, or if you have the money, get the first plane out of the country and enjoy a week’s vacation in some other part of the world, but logical courses of action like that are never mentioned, and that’s just one of several reasons why it’s a crock.
Unlike last year’s outing, the sequel has no star names. Last time it was Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey protecting their home and family from neighborhood nutcases. This year the premise proves that larger salaries are not required. Like several reasonably low budget horrors of the past, such as the Friday the 13th movies, Saw and even the Paranormal Activity franchise, marquee values names are no longer required. All the producers have to do is set up a new year, a new night of Purge, and let it rip on a new set of innocent characters who spend the night dodging bullets and machetes until the sun rises.
Asinine premise aside, one of the problems with the sequel is that there’re too many characters. Our innocent protagonists consist of a young couple whose car breaks down minutes before the Purge begins, a mother and daughter who are forced to flee their tenement home, plus a guy called Leo Barnes who is armed and out on the streets in order to seek revenge on a man who accidentally killed his son in a DUI and got off on a technicality. Well, perhaps Leo’s not an altogether innocent protagonist, but we sympathize with his plight, plus he helps keep the young couple and the mother/daughter as safe as he can, so despite his intentions of taking advantage of the Purge in his own way we’re supposed to like him.
Then there’s: 1) a suspicious group of well-equipped assailants who appear to have the military equipment to bust in to any home they chose: 2) a well-intentioned black militia: 3) assorted bully-boy crazies wearing scary masks and wielding knives, machine guns and machetes, and finally: 4) perhaps the worst of all, the cowardly rich who treat the night of purging as a form of entertainment while kidnapping innocents off the street, bidding on who they want to see killed, then watching the murders from behind the safety of bullet proof window.
The only real moment of satisfaction during this mess is when the black militia burst in and assists our unfortunate innocents from being murdered at the hands of the wealthy. Considering there’s no logical reason for the rich to be involved in the purge – what inner demons are they supposed to be exorcising? – watching them shriek in terror after enjoying a night of sadism for their personal enjoyment feels somehow justified. After all, when you think about it, the reason a situation in our society such as the need for a purge even exists in the first place is because of those like the greedy who have it all at the expense of those who continually have nothing. Managers, company CEOs and various others who live comfortably while working out ways to keep milking the working stiffs, reducing their hours and taking away their benefits in order to line their own pockets should beware.
“I can’t believe you guys went through that stuff,” says one woman to our innocent group of central characters. “It’s just insane.” Too true. The Purge: Anarchy is the single most unpleasant experience you’ll have at the movies since… well, last year’s equally knuckleheaded The Purge.
MPAA Rating: R Length: 104 Minutes Overall Rating: 2 (out of 10)