Last year’s The Purge is probably the one film in recent memory that requires a remake. Its sequel Anarchy makes up for a lot of the first’s problems to make a decent dose of urban violence.
The film follows a man out to partake in the sixth annual Purge in an American city. His reasons are not explained, but he is armed like a small army and has a modified car to survive the violent streets. But not long after the Purge begins he finds himself defending four innocents trapped and being hunted down…
The problem with the first Purge was its lack of enthusiasm for its creative and original premise. We have a scenario for any crime to be legalized for twelve hours once a year, and yet all it did was give us the sort of murderous home invasion film we always get.
Anarchy does slightly better. We see a much broader view of what the Purge does to regular people as our characters move through a major city. The idea that the Purge is an outlet for personal rage and frustration depicted with bloody carnage and wanton violence.
It even extends the premise into something of a class war, giving the film series much needed teeth to elevate itself above the hordes of generic slasher movies. Is the Purge just to relieve tension in American citizens and provide safety and security for 354 days of the year as advertised, or is it something more insidious? The rich can defend themselves, but what about the poor?
The idea gets great foundations to begin with; two of our characters are part of a struggling family and feel sympathy towards a rebel cell fighting against the government that founded the Purge. The characters here are much, much stronger than in the previous film (not that this is a difficult task…)
The film does take the concept in some very eerie directions towards its conclusion, there is even a couple of great grey areas around the human capacity for violence, which is exactly the sort of head-turning controversy that this film series needs (and can easily provide!) to get noticed. It also has a lot less of the cliches that plagued the first film, our lead protagonist’s motivations are kept so secretive that we still have something to look forward to besides the film’s more traditional narrative trappings.
But while Anarchy plays the premise far better (practically erasing the first film from memory, yay!) it still seems as though writer/director James DeMonaco doesn’t want to go into the intellectual side of his creation… Sure, Anarchy has a lot of weight when you read between the lines (dare I even say it has some real promise at times!) but it is too easy to see it as just another slasher movie.
Again, we don’t see anything other than murder. Just, plain old murder. Sure there are different means this time, but the ends are always murder. While if this sort of scenario came to be, yes, murder would be the main threat and cities would become a chaos of marauding thugs and trained killers, but there must be a more insidious and personal side to crime at work that we aren’t seeing in these movies. The Purge could still be a deeper, more character driven study into psychopathy and the depravity of the human animal… but DeMonaco is clearly going for the more marketable approach: blind violence.
It obliterates its predecessor. If you are concerned this is more of the same, don’t be as Anarchy delivers a better dive into its rich premise and potential themes. But it isn’t the edgy masterpiece it could easily be, and does seem to preach the idea that all Americans seem to think about when given the freedom from law is nothing but murder.