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Wednesday, July 16, 2014 08:06 pm

“Anarchy” has its Finger on the Pulse of an Angry Nation

There’s a sense of justified rage that propels The Purge: Anarchy, a film that simultaneously serves as a cathartic exercise for its audience as well as a screed against the current state of societal affairs.  In shifting the focus from the first film from the Haves to that of the Have-Nots, writer/director James DeMonaco improves on the previous entry in the series by giving us a point-of-view we can relate to as well as a vehicle through which we can vent our rage.

Sergeant (Frank Grillo) does his best to protect Eva (Carmen Ejogo), Cali (Zoe Soul), Shane (Zach Gilford) and Liz (Kiele Sanchez) during a very long night in The Purge: Anarchy.
Courtesy Universal Pictures

The concept is a simple one – in the future, during one 12-hour period in the year, everyone is allowed to break any law they wish without fear of persecution.  This has been instituted by the New Founding Fathers, old white guys who run the country and make sure that they are exempt from this period of institutionalized chaos. How this accelerated exercise in Social Darwinism drives down the crime rate and increases employment is beyond me. Whereas the first film was a fine example of economical filmmaking, as all of the action took place in the home of an upper class family that’s been breached, DeMonaco expands on this premise by focusing on the chaotic activity in the streets of Los Angeles and the moralistic musings that ensue there.  

Young marrieds Shane and Liz (Zach Gilford and Kiele Sanchez) find themselves in big trouble when their car breaks down just before the purge begins, while mother and daughter Eva and Cali (Carmen Ejogo and Zoe Soul) end up on the streets after being abducted by a group of heavily armed men.  They’re saved by Sergeant (Frank Grillo), a man out to settle a personal vendetta.  Circumstances that you are not supposed to question bring these five together and they set out to survive the night, trying to avoid roving gangs intent on killing them for pleasure or selling them for profit to those who wish to purge in privacy.

Someone's in the wrong place at the wrong time in The Purge: Anarchy.
Courtesy Universal Pictures

There’s no question that there are flaws aplenty in the film as characters are required to do their share of stupid things in order to keep the ridiculous plot moving and DeMonaco does himself no favors saddling his actors with numerous pieces of inane, unnecessary dialogue.  I lost count of how many times I heard “What’s that?” and “Look Out!” during the film’s crisply executed 103 minutes.

However, there’s no question DeMonaco has an axe to grind and he gives vent to his and the audience’s frustration where the widening gap between the 1 and 99 % are concerned.  This comes to a head during the third act when the five principals find themselves being hunted in a perverse version of The Most Dangerous Game. Icy members of the societal elite, replete in ornate gowns and tuxedos pony up $100,000 to sate their urge to kill, treating their prey with a callousness that effectively drives home the notion that empathy is a quality that evaporates as riches accumulate. To be sure, Anarchy is a crude exercise in many ways but the rage at its core is valid, so much so that even the casual viewer will be able to relate to and embrace it.  

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