Movie Review - The Purge: Anarchy

Frank Grillo stars in "The Purge: Anarchy"
I didn't see the previous film, but the premise is that into the near future, the United States passes a law that makes all crimes, including murder, legal for a 12-hour period annually on March 21. An opening graphic indicates that this law has drastically cut down crime on all other days during the year, and, all throughout the film the argument it helps to cleanse the soul is constantly spoken.

Given the state of American politics currently, it seems impossible that such a law would ever come to be. But, even if you suspend your disbelief, the problem arises that the man who crafted this law is called a "new founding father" and he develops a kind of worship from people, indicating that there are some who, if not for the Purge, probably wouldn't kill or hurt anyone at all.

As we come to see, an entire industry is built around the Purge that would never have existed otherwise. As is pointed out, the Purge favors the wealthy and becomes a kind of war on the poor. Only those who can afford to escape or properly fortify can sleep soundly, the rest become fodder. The wealthy become human hunters and a lot of the 99-percent just cannibalize each other.

There's a moment when one character threatens what can only be rape, but it's never said and then is quickly eliminated. It's as if even the filmmakers were afraid to broach that topic. From that point forward, there's an assumption on the filmmaker's part that murder is the worst thing you can do to a person when clearly it's not. If the film couldn't even say the word rape, then surely rape has got to be worse. That, and of course child molestation!

However, writer-director James DeMonaco would rather avoid those obvious sexual situations. If the Purge were real, it would be a field day for pedophiles. All one would have to do is break into an orphanage and enjoy the smorgasbord. Maybe that will take place in The Purge 3, but here DeMonaco falls into the typical trappings that come with a genre exercise such as this. When in doubt, he just relies on gun-play. Shooting people up is in a way safer violence. It's quick. Yes, it can be painful, but it's not the kind of pain that's meant to truly be felt, not like the violence of a sexual assault.

DeMonaco has no interest or either he's scared to imagine what a world of true anarchy might mean. He instead couches everything in religious mumbo jumbo and class warfare that's symbolized as actual warfare. He also simplifies everything to what's essentially a revenge tale.

Frank Grillo (The Grey and Captain America: The Winter Soldier) stars as the man only referred to as Sergeant, a father who clearly doesn't have his son any more. He arms himself with a bullet-proof vest, a car with reinforced glass and plating and a ton of weaponry, including a machine rifle. Once the Purge begins, he sets out on his mission, which isn't relayed until the third act, a mistake by DeMonaco, but he becomes the reluctant protector of four people who get caught on the street with no way of defending themselves.

The four tag-along people include a worried mother Eva, played by Carmen Ejogo (Sparkle and Pride and Glory) and her daughter and aspiring humanist Cali, played by Zoe Soul (Prisoners), as well as Shane and Liz, a couple on the verge of breaking up, respectively played by Zach Gilford (Friday Night Lights and Devil's Due) and Kiele Sanchez (Lost and The Glades). The four exist as reminders to Sergeant that helping people is preferrable to hurting them, even during the Purge.

Three Stars out of Five.
Rated R for strong disturbing violence, and for language.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 43 mins.


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