Friday, 18 November 2016

The Purge: Anarchy

Title: The Purge: Anarchy
Director: James DeMonaco
Released: 2014
Starring: Frank Grillo, Carmen Ejogo, Zach Gilford, Kiele Sanchez, Zoe Soul, Michael K. Williams, Judith McConnell, Jack Conley

Plot: When a couple attempting to get home before the start of the annual Purge find themselves stranded in the city when their car breaks down, they soon find themselves rescued by a mysterious stranger (Grillo) who is on his own quest for revenge on the night when all crime is legal.

Review: The original Purge movie was something of a flawed creature as it took an intreging premise of a twelve-hour period every year where all crime is legal. At the same time it was a visually very arresting movie, but one which thanks to one annoying kid audiences struggled to get on board with. Here though director James DeMonaco returns to take another crack at the format as the action this time is transferred from the suburbs to the streets of Los Angeles.

This time round DeMonaco aims for something a little deeper than the siege movie the original descended into, as one year on from the events of the first film the divide between the rich and poor has never felt so obvious. More so when the wealthy view the impoverished as being disposable at best as seen at the start of this year’s purge when Eva (Ejogo) and Cali’s (Soul) father / grandfather is shown selling himself to be purged by a wealthy family. This is only further driven home by the death squad who appear to be targeting the poor under the command of the mysterious Big Daddy (Conley).

Rather than rest on his laruels and settle for rehashing the events of the first film in a different location, here DeMonaco actively attempts to develop this near future vision of Los Angeles with more disillusionment being shown towards the purpose of the Purge, especially when it is so weighted against the poor who are unable to afford the expensive security systems that the wealthy can. At the same time an anti-Purge resistance group lead by the revolutionary Carmelo Johns (Williams) hack the government propaganda feeds to denounce the ideas of the New Founding Fathers.

Once the film establishes its central group comprised of our stranded married couple Shane (Gilford) and Liz (Sanchez) aswell as Eva and Cali with Frank Grillo’s punisher esq Sergeant leading the group across the city to Eva’s sisters apartment with the film taking on a similar plot to that of “The Warriors” especially as this group have to constantly battle or escape various groups of frenzied Purge participants. This in itself changes things up from the siege setting of the first film, while also opening up the world to show how various groups choose to celebrate their right to purge. Much like the first film though this is a film strongly driven by its visual style from the colourful Purge participants though to the neon lit cityscape or the flame thrower lit tunnels of the subway system all making it all the more fascinating a world to explore.

As I mentioned already this entry in the series is keen to explore the deeper reasons behind the Purge itself , moving past the concept of what happens when all crime is legal and instead asking why the founding fathers would put in place such an idea to begin with? As to be expected the answer can be found in the division between the rich and poor, with the rich throughout this film being shown as seeing the poor as disposable and going off the black tie finale they also view them as being suitable sport as groups of rich hunters bid for the opportunity to hunt our group within the confines of an area they have constructed and which certainly brought back memories of “Hard Target”. In something of a missed opportunity we are introduced to a pair of machete welding twin sisters as one of the group bidding which sadly was not a role filled by the Soska Sisters who after seeing them playing a pair of twisted twins in their own “American Mary” meant that I was left feeling that DeMonaco had missed a trick by not casting them in this role.

Casting wise everyone is competent and likeable enough in their roles though this really is Frank Grillo’s film as he gives us essentially his version of the “The Punisher” with the right amount of gruff darkness to keep his character and his own mission interesting throughout. Jack Connelly is equally interesting as the big bad for the film though his role as Big Daddy only seems to get the recognition of being the big villain during the final few minutes when before then he just appeared to be just another government grunt.

A big step up from the first film as it avoids many of the issues which plagued the first film such as that darn annoying kid, this film really showed that this franchise has legs and scope to work outside of the confined original while making me keen to see where the franchise goes next.

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