The Purge was one of the biggest financial successes of 2013. It cost only $3 million to make and it made nearly $100 million at the box office. Any studio would look at that and immediately greenlight a sequel, and that’s exactly what happened. Now, one short year later, we have the sequel and the possibility of this franchise becoming the next Paranormal Activity or Saw. The Purge: Anarchy cost $9 million to make and this weekend will determine whether we see The Purge 4, 5 or 6.
The Purge: Anarchy doesn’t necessarily follow the story of the first movie. We don’t see Ethan Hawke or his family at all. It takes place in the same alternate world. The Purge, one day a year when all crime is legal, still happens. Most sane people barricade themselves behind locked doors and secured windows. There are 12 hours when you want to avoid the outside world. If you are in the wrong place and wrong time, your chances of survival are minimal.
Anarchy follows three sets of characters in the hours leading up to and during the Purge. The first set is a couple who experience unfortunate car trouble and get stuck on the highway. The Purge is about to begin and they have nowhere to go. They are also being stalked by a few masked gentleman who have an uncanny sense of tracking. The second set of characters are a mother and daughter who live in the projects. Their “safe” apartment gets broken into and they are nearly kidnapped by men in SWAT gear. The third, the most important, character (Frank Grillo) is spending the night in the desolate city because he plans to take part in the Purge. He is suited up and ready to find his target. Unfortunately for him, he ends up saving these four people and becomes their guide through the dangerous city streets, where death waits around every corner.
The Purge only works, as a movie idea, if you can buy into how silly and heavy-handed it is. This sequel comes right out and says that not many general civilians take advantage of the Purge. Instead, rich white people pay others to track down bystanders, so they can bid on them and hunt them (ala, The Most Dangerous Game).
The first movie wasn’t a thriller classic, but it worked because of what it left to your imagination. It only showed the perspective of one family from inside their secure house. We, as the viewers, imagined how dangerous the outside world was. It gave the eerie feeling that, in those 12 hours, being outdoors was as dangerous as swimming with sharks. The sequel shows us exactly how it is outside and it’s not all that exciting or thrilling.
I think the Purge works better in concept than when it shows everything. I never really felt the threat or danger for any of these characters. In fact, I was planning which character would die first. The only character you get behind is Frank Grillo’s tough guy. I would have rather seen an entire movie of his character against the menacing purgers than how it actually was. He was essentially a glorified babysitter. Grillo’s star is on the rise. He plays this world’s version of Snake Plissken.
This movie is basically Escape from New York mixed with a poor man’s Hunger Games and Running Man. It’s well under two hours, but feels longer. It takes far too long to get from point A to point B. The movie only really surprised and excited me in the last 20 minutes when the characters are put in a very grim, high-society slaughterhouse. Had the movie been more about survival there instead of dodging bullets in the street, it would be far more entertaining and original.
Overall, the Purge: Anarchy felt unnecessary. The first movie did well and so they’re stretching out the idea. Yet, they’ve stretched it so far that it’s lost some of the terror. There was no central villain or face of the purge this time around. The first one succeeded largely because of Rhys Wakefield, who played the polite leader of the murderous yuppies. He was unpredictable and threatened the family in their own home. The first movie was thrilling because it threatens us where we live, literally. If our home is penetrable, then nothing is safe. Anarchy just reveals too much and the fear of the unknown just becomes running away from semi trucks and machine guns.
This is a decent grindhouse movie for those people who can’t get enough of an ’80s movie feel. If you’re a fan of the first movie, you should rent this movie. Mostly, it feels like an unnecessary cash-in. I kept wishing that this were more like The Warriors.