2013’s #1 box office hit, The Purge, presented an interesting new take on horror, something that’s becoming increasingly rare. Before I jackoff the franchise’s freshmen entry, I should mention I hated it, and hated it hard. I was overly excited for the film, and ultimately pissed when the credits rolled. Finally, a cool new horror film on the horizon that didn’t involve found-footage, and it blew. I loved the premise, but the execution sucked. It was very limiting.
If you’re not familiar with the setup, please keep reading; the next paragraph is true for both films thus far. The New Founding Fathers of America are the ruling political party in 2023. Their radical new method of controlling everything from unemployment to crime, is an annual purge. Beginning at 7pm, and lasting until 7am the next morning, the purge declares any and all crime legal. Yup, even murder. The violent annual event is reportedly responsible for keeping America thriving. Whether you’re angry, vengeful, “patriotic”, or plain old insane, Americans are breaking participation records every year. While this is agreeably great for the country, the purge leaves the rest of the country cowering behind reinforced doors, hoping the violence is contained in the streets.
In the newest entry, as it should have been all along, the film takes place in the streets of Los Angeles; ground zero for a host of enthusiastic killers. Regular mom with regular problems, Eva (Carmen Ejogo), and her daughter, Cali (Zoë Soul), find themselves in the streets after their apartment is invaded. Along with the terrified family are Shane (Zach Gilford) and Liz (Kiele Sanchez), two unfortunate souls that become targets of opportunistic street gangs. Forced into the fray, they meet the man who becomes their savior, a hard-assed, armed-to-the-teeth man known only as Sergeant (Frank Grillo), who clearly has his own reasons to place himself in danger. Sergeant doesn’t want to get involved, but his heart drags him away, and he becomes the reluctant leader of the group; directing them to shut up and follow his lead if they want to live through the night.
The group is being tracked and assaulted by randoms, thugs, snipers, clandestine teams, and every murderous asshole imaginable. The stakes rise exponentially as the evening passes, bringing new elements to the franchise; some of a grand nature. Frank Grillo (Captain America: Winter Soldier, The Grey, Prison Break) stole this film. I have no idea why this man wasn’t cast as Frank Castle, aka, Marvel’s ‘The Punisher‘. The guy’s real name is even Frank. I would have to agree with a friend who called this as a Punisher-style action movie. Horror takes the backseat to action, and the result is perfection for the genre. The Purge: Anarchy more than makes up for the shitty first film.
I enjoyed the way the film’s protagonists came together, as well as their personal characterization. I can find no fault with Anarchy. It’s rare for me to be so invested in horror movie characters, but this was a grand exception. The film is so tense, so action-packed, that I was almost cheering in some parts. My impossible to please 14-year-old niece went with me, and she even liked it, which is no small task. Go see The Purge: Anarchy. If you love horror and action, there won’t be a better film this year.
Writer/director, James DeMonaco, clearly knew where he wanted to take this franchise, and he succeeded in spades. The setup and possibilities for the next Purge films are unlimited with such an expansive story and array of characters. I went in with low expectations, and was blown away. This is worth a trip to the multiplex, kids. Frank Grillo is officially awesome in my book.