One of the tackiest things in Hollywood is when a studio cranks out a sequel like a year after the last one. I think saturation and surplus is what ruined the Paranormal Activity films, the Saw franchise and countless others. The Purge came out last year and was a small story about a father trying to protect his family on the one night out of the year where every crime is legal, including murder. It was a great concept but not the best film. It was frustrating, repetitive and anti-climatic. The Purge: Anarchy is the sequel and it's one year later so you can imagine how loudly my eyes rolled when I saw the trailer. I'm happy to say that this is everything the first one should have been.
Instead of telling the story of the characters from the last one, director James DeMonaco (who also wrote and directed the first one) has decided to tell a completely new story set on the same scary holiday. Yes, it's completely ridiculous that the United States government would ever allow a 12-hour period where you could kill whoever and how many you wanted but once you get past that, accept it as truth for the film, it's a really entertaining, disturbing and intriguing concept. This film examines it on a broader basis and has more to say about the class system, gun violence and government corruption.
The star is a guy named Frank Grillo, who I interviewed and you can hear below. He's been plugging away at Hollywood for decades and I'm thrilled to see him finally leading a film. You might recognize him from Captain America: The Winter Solider, Zero Dark Thirty, The Grey or Warrior. He plays a grieving father who goes out on Purge Night to avenge the death of his son, who was killed by a drunk driver. He's sidetracked when his conscience gets the best of him and he helps two couples that are trapped outside survive the night. Everything about Grillo oozes coolness in this. Not only does he pull off the anti-hero extremely well but a scene toward the end of the film is excellent by showcasing the layers to his character and Grillo's acting skills.
DeMonaco didn't have a big budget for the last one and he didn't have a sizable one here either. The difference is that you could tell in the last one but here you can't. He tells a big story in a warzone that makes it seem like a bloated summer blockbuster. Sure there are moments that are very cliche and predictable twists but I'm not sure The Purge franchise sets out to blow anyone's mind. The violence is excessive and brutal but it's not without purpose. The more you allow yourself to accept this Twilight Zone-esque premise the more disturbing it all becomes and I really liked that.
Is The Purge: Anarchy a movie I would watch again? Probably not. Can I find anything about it that I hated. Not really. It's a concept film that you don't really see too often anymore; a horror action that has a brain behind a ridiculous concept. I dig that though. Will The Purge become a franchise that will churn out an installment every year? I don't know but it might be the first time I don't really care if it does. See this film stands alone and can be enjoyed without seeing the first one. Going on that premise of a night when murder is legal is interesting and there are lots of stories that can come from that. Will they all be interesting and new? Probably not but I'm now willing to see them and decide for myself.
Listen to Gavin's interview with The Purge: Anarchy star, Frank Grillo: