If The Purge taught us anything, it’s that there are still new ideas floating around Hollywood. The challenge is finding someone worthy to helm them. James DeMonaco wrote and directed last year’s mediocre “horror” movie that attempted to raise serious political questions via its intriguing concept. And an intriguing concept it was. All crime is legal for 12 hours as U.S. citizens “purge” themselves of the evil built up inside them. It allows society to function better and keeps crime rate incredibly low. But is it worth it? Does moral conviction trump legal boundaries? These are some questions that DeMonaco raises in this sequel that is better than the its predecessor. Unfortunately, it’s still not a good film. Do not be mistaken. I will not be that critic that destroys this movie for being too violent or being a simple excuse for a director to film needless violence. I actually admire what this franchise can be capable of. So I am holding on to hope. Do I want to see one of these every year? No, I do not. But I still think there is a good movie to be made with this concept.
The Purge: Anarchy is not that movie. To say that it is better than the first one isn’t really saying that much at all. It’s still riddled with plot holes, stupid characters (although not as stupid as characters in the first one), and bad acting. Lots of people complain about the violence, but what do you expect? But I will say that while watching this movie, the violence never bothered me, so that is a pro that the film offers. Also a pro is the performance of Frank Grillo, who you may recognize as one of the baddies in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. He gives what is easily the best performance in the movie. He plays an unnamed sergeant who is out on Purge night to get revenge on someone who took something from him. That is until he crosses paths with Liz and Shane, played by two actors who areexactly what you would expect from this kind of movie movie: pretty bad. The rest of the movie is this group of people trying to survive while on the streets during the annual Purge, which already makes it better than the first film’s idea of using this concept for a home invasion thriller that wasn’t very thrilling at all. While all the acting is pretty mundane all around (save for Grillo of course), I must mention that it was really cool to see Michael K. Williams from Boardwalk Empire in a fairly entertaining role.
Another thing the movie has going for it is the look. I was actually startled to see how well filmed the movie was at certain points. It’s far from a perfect looking movie, but compared to what I was expecting, the movie had some really cool shots and great lighting that caught me off guard. I wish I could say the movie had more going for it though. There are so many plot holes, as well as plot contrivances, that are simply too massive to overlook. There are various scenes in which DeMonaco chooses to use shaky cam as the camera method, which was annoying as always. Also, I know this is marketed as a horror movie so the masks are used to make things creepy, but in a real situation like this, would these criminals really wear the masks? I mean, crime is legal. You don’t have to hide your face. And even if you still choose to, why would everyone wear these creepy Halloween masks? Maybe I’m the only one put off my that. It really is a shame though. The concept of the annual Purge is simply too promising to be handled like this. Last year’s film was a straight up failure and a perfect example of what not to do with a good idea. The Purge 2 isn’t good, but it’s getting warmer. If these things keep coming, maybe we’ll get a really good one. I’m not holding my breath, but I think it has more potential than Paranormal Activity.
The Purge: Anarchy succeeds in that it is better than the first, with some cool action sequences, camerawork, and a good performance from Frank Grillo. Those are the only positives the movie offers. There are plot holes, bad performances, cliched story elements, and dumb characters. To say it’s better than the first isn’t saying much at all. It isn’t a good film.