Thursday, July 31, 2014

It Came From The Cineplex: The Purge: Anarchy

The Purge: Anarchy was written and directed by James DeMonaco. It's a sequel to 2013's The Purge (which was also written by DeMonaco).

I didn't think much of the original film (I gave it a D+!), as it seemed like a made for Siffy movie that was somehow released to theaters by mistake. It had an intriguing premise, but then absolutely wasted it on a bland and claustrophobic home invasion tale. I wanted to see what the Purge was like all across the country, not watch bunch of morons hide inside their house for ninety minutes.

Fortunately the filmmakers, stinging from my harsh review, took my suggestions to heart. This film is a vast improvement over the first (which I will admit is damning it with faint praise). No longer are we stuck in a single location with uninteresting characters. This time we actually get to see what's going on outside during the annual Purge.

That said, this film continues the original's sketchy take on economics by believing that unemployment can be wiped out simply by eliminating the poor. I honestly can't tell if this is director DeMonaco's attempt at satire and black humor, or if he truly believes it. If it's the latter, I'm pretty sure the economy doesn't work that way. We can't all be millionaires. Society needs someone to sweep up vomit and empty the trash.


The Plot:
The year is 2023, and it's time for the annual nationwide Purge: a twelve hour period in which all crime is legal. Eva Sanchez and her daughter Cali are holing up in their apartment, hoping to ride out the violent event. Elsewhere, a couple named Shane and Liz (poor kids can't even afford a last name), are trying to hurry home so they're not caught on the streets during the Purge. And lastly, tough guy police sergeant Leo Barnes is gearing up for the Purge, eager to exact revenge on the man who drunkenly killed his young son.

Once the Purge begins, the characters all meet-cute and the battle-hardened Leo does his best to protect the others, hoping they all survive the night.

The Purge: Anarchy is very reminiscent of early John Carpenter films (especially Escape From New York and Assault On Precinct 13). That's a good thing, by the way.

• In the first film, every single character acted like a complete and utter idiot. It was the only way for the plot to proceed. Here the character stupidity is toned way down, and no one does anything overtly moronic.

• Frank Grillo plays Leon Barnes, who's a very Punisher-like character. If Marvel Studios ever decides to make another Punisher film, they could do worse than to cast Grillo. Hey, why not? They've already made three Punisher films starring three different actors. Why not a fourth?

Grillo played Brock Rumlow in Captain America: The Winter Soldier and most fans believe he'll return for Captain America 3 as Crossbones.

• Leo is a tight-lipped, mysterious figure who's armed with a variety of heavy weaponry, wears bullet-proof armor and drives a tricked-out, armored car that wouldn't be out of place in a Mad Max movie. What is he? An ex-paramilitary soldier? A mercenary? Post-apocalyptic survivor?

Nope, it turns out he's a plain old police sergeant, out for revenge. But how'd he get that way? Where'd he get all the training, weapons and hardware? Isn't the central conceit of the movie that the Purge has virtually eliminated all violent crime? Why does L.A. need such a superhuman cop if there's no one to fight?

• One complaint I had about the first film was that its premise brought up a ton of questions that it had absolutely no interest in answering. 

That's all changed this time around though. DeMonaco has obviously thought about the concept of the Purge and fleshed it out quite a bit. For example, the film features gang members who aren't interested in Purging, but instead capture innocent people and sell them to the Rich, 
who can then participate in the Purge without placing themselves in danger on the streets. Terminally ill people also sell themselves to the Rich, to provide for their surviving family members. Even squabbling couples take advantage of the Purge to resolve their domestic disputes.

These are all scenarios that would actually happen (or at least seem like they'd happen) if the Purge was real.

• Once again the filmmakers have taken the least interesting crime– murder– and focused solely on it. Just once I'd like to see a character break a different law during the Purge. Steal a car, embezzle funds, park in the red zone, something, anything besides plain old boring murder.

• Eva's teen daughter Cali is fascinated by the internet ramblings of a man named Carmelo, who's the leader of an Anti-Purge Resistance. Unfortunately this Resistance isn't fleshed out very well. It's mentioned briefly at the beginning, then promptly forgotten until the end when it suddenly becomes very important as the Resistance bursts in and saves everyone. 

• At one point everyone is captured and sold off to provide entertainment for the wealthy elite. Up to this point the film seemed fairly realistic, but here it strayed firmly into satirical, almost farcical territory. The transition was a bit too jarring, and could have been handled more smoothly. It's almost like two films spliced crudely together. This was a problem in the first film as well.

• One of the Anti-Purge rebels is Dwayne, a character from the first film. I'm assuming he was brought back as a tenuous connection to the first film. It wasn't necessary, and only the most hardcore of Purge fans (if there are any) would recognize him.

• During the battle at the end, the captured Shane and Liz fight back against the wealthy. Shane is killed shortly before the Rebels break in. The Rebels are all racially Anti-Purge, and are determined to stop anyone who participates. Distraught by Shane's death, Liz tells the Rebels she wants to join in the Purge in order to have revenge on those who killed him. Dwayne nods in understanding and hands her a gun.

Realistically Dwayne should have then immediately pulled out a gun and shot Liz, right? I mean he hates Purgers, and she just became one in front of his eyes. It's only logical.

The Purge: Anarchy is a vast improvement over the first film, and explores and expands on the concept nicely. I give it a B-.

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