Movie Review: The Purge – Anarchy

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The Purge: Anarchy
Genre: Horror/Action/Thriller
Rated R 

It’s the year 2023.  Unemployment and poverty are at an all-time low, thanks to the Purge. An annual American Holiday, the Purge was created by the New Founding Fathers of America to help curb violence and reduce poverty. Once a year, citizens are given a twelve hour window of time to legally commit any kind of crime – even murder – in an effort to “cleanse their souls.” Those who choose not to purge, lock down their homes and pray they make it through the night.

For years, the poor have been the main targets of the purgers and often the easiest to eliminate. The richest of the rich often pay high prices to victim’s families for willing sacrificial volunteers, even going as far as capturing helpless stragglers caught out on the street and auctioning them off to the highest bidder for a hunt.

On this particular night, Sergeant (played by Frank Grillo) is out to seek revenge on the man who killed his son. He’s armed and ready with a trunk full of semi-automatic weapons, a bullet proof car and a grim attitude. Along the way, he stumbles upon a mother and daughter being dragged from their home by a SWAT like team of purgers. Against his better judgement, Sergeant gets involved, rescues the women and picks up another couple stranded out in the night. The next hour or so is spent following the characters around as they run through the streets of L.A., dodging various groups of purgers who are out to spill some blood.

2013’s The Purge suffered from a story that confined the action to one house, which weakened the overall plot, leaving much to be desired. 2014’s The Purge: Anarchy learned from that mistake and what the viewer is given this time around is a thought provoking, tense thriller that  focuses on a class war between the rich and the poor. It’s not perfect by any means and sometimes there’s almost too much going on, but this sequel definitely rises above it’s 2013 predecessor.

Although the film is extremely violent,  this is not a slasher flick. We don’t see a lot of blood and when violent acts are shown on screen, they’re often brief flashes or blurred action shots, so the viewer knows what’s happening but is not inundated with limbs being cut off or blood spewing from open wounds.

The actors’ performances are all solid – nothing Oscar worthy, but the cast works well with what their given and portray their characters effectively. The only exception is Liz (Kiele Sanchez), the most annoying and cringe-worthy character in the movie. (Every horror movie has to have a stupid blonde though, right?)

What makes The Purge: Anarchy stand out from any other horror type movie is that it has intelligence and a unique plot. This is something that could happen in a future America. In fact, a Pew research study from late last year shows that Americans see a growing gap between the rich and the poor today. Fifty-seven percent of those Americans view that as a bad thing for our society. Major news outlets frequently run stories about inequality and President Obama has focused on the issue, stating in a recent speech that there was “a dangerous and growing inequality” in the nation which now stood as “the defining challenge of our time.”

It’s slightly ironic though, that while most of the movie rails against wealth and a capitalist society, that very structure that America was founded on is providing the studios, directors and actors with the cash to make the film and putting millions in their pockets when these kinds of movies perform well at the box office.

Will the average movie goers think about any of this? Probably not. Should they? Most definitely. The entire concept of the movie is plausible – and that’s pretty terrifying. It likely won’t happen for several generations – if at all – but it’s definitely worth discussing. Whether one agrees or disagrees with the political statements made in the film, kudos to the director for making a horror/thriller movie that provokes critical thinking  – a real rarity for any film genre, let alone one lumped in the horror category.


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