In the horror sequel The Purge: Anarchy, a group of innocent people get caught outside during “The Purge:” a period of 24 hours where all crime in the United States is legal. A mother and daughter, a couple in a tumultuous relationship, and a rogue man with some unclear mission find themselves banding together, running from an army of armored men in trucks and a gang of masked outlaws (and later a third group of murderers).
From premise alone, this film is superior to its predecessor. Where the first Purge film took place largely inside one home, Anarchy spreads its wings and ventures out into the larger universe of this fictional “dystopia” (not quite a dystopia, of course, because for whatever reason The Purge has made America the greatest nation in the world).
Even with the promise of an expanded Purge world, this film continues to disappoint by introducing new, more intriguing elements to its mythology that they only scratch the surface of. Michael K. Williams plays a radical, anti-Purge gang leader who, for the majority of the film, remains a figure spouting manifestos on television screens. A push back against the corrupt Purge universe government–in other words: an all out Purge civil war–sounds like one badass film. Instead, we have to wait for another sequel for that.
What we do get in Anarchy is character arcs that go nowhere and action sequences that become painfully redundant as the movie trudges along.
Remember that lone wolf with an unknown mission I was talking about before? Turns out, his unknown mission isn’t all that grand after all. In a world dominated by annual retribution, he’s just like everyone else. That’s one example of character arcs falling flat (and his is the most drawn out of them all).
There are five main characters in this film. Of those characters, I can recall none of their names. Their stories are not sympathetic, and the ends of their respective roads are thus grossly unsatisfying. The world of The Purge is far more interesting than the characters that inhabit it, and we have come to see that now in two consecutive films. A movie cannot stand on premise alone. Anarchy is a larger disappointment than the original, because it gives us more of what could be an amazing horror film universe. Unfortunately, careful attention is not given to the story of the film itself, which taints the universe as a whole.
The film isn’t un-watchable. It is better than the original, at the very least. It is more action than horror, which may or may not be an improvement from the first film, depending on your preferences. I personally found the action to become a time filler by the last hour. Seemingly every 20 minutes there is a new gang of people with guns trying to rip our rag-tag team of protagonists to shreds. None of them do anything particularly novel, so all of these sequences blend together. The movie does seem to take heavy influence from John Carpenter, particularly Assault on Precinct 13 (a film that Purge creator James DeMonaco helped re-make in 2005). However, the action becomes a nuisance, the characters leave a lot to be desired, and the horror element is all but stripped away.
Apparently The Purge 3 will be a prequel that tells the story of the very first Purge. So much for my cool second American civil war idea. My main concern with this franchise is that there is so so so much that can be done with its novel premise, but it is instead being used for empty, plot-less drivel.
I may have been disappointed by The Purge 2, but perhaps you will think differently. If you want to give it a watch, you can find it on Amazon:
As always, thanks for reading!
Have you seen The Purge: Anarchy? If so, what did you think? Better than the original? Are more sequels warranted? Let me know in the comments!
–Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)