The Purge: Anarchy
Director: James DeMonaco
Starring: Frank Grillo, Carmen Ejogo, Zach Gilford
103 mins; Class 15;
KRS Releasing Ltd

The year is 2022 and the US are governed by the New Founding Fathers of America (NFFA), who can boast the lowest rates of crime and unemployment the country has ever witnessed. There is a price for this, however.

The NFFA have brought into law the ‘Purge’, a twelve-hour period held from 7pm on March 21 to 7am on March 22 annually, during which all crimes – theft, rape, even murder – are completely legal. Police and emergency services are suspended and anyone who doesn't follow the rules of the Purge is executed.

This was the premise of The Purge, a 2013 film of modest means that went on to become a huge success, spawning this sequel. The original is a film that, according to its writer/director James DeMonaco, is a morality play with solid lessons to be learned about violence, money and class, while also having America’s rampant gun culture within its sights.

The sequel, in which events unfold a year later, stars Frank Grillo as Leo, a taciturn man who we first meet in a spartan apartment as he checks his many weapons and body armour. He is clearly set on a particular mission on this night of anarchy.

He is set on a mission on this night of anarchy

Eva (Carmen Ejogo) is a single mother trying to make ends meet to support her father and teenage daughter Cali (Zoe Soul). As the rampaging begins, Eva and Cali are attacked in their apartment and dragged violently into the streets where they are rescued by Leo. In the meantime Shane (Zach Gilford) and his wife Liz (Kiele Sanchez) are trying to get home safely just as the Purge begins, their car having broken down. The five of them team up in order to survive the night in the best way they can.

I can’t comment on the first movie as I have not seen it, but whether any lessons are to be learnt from the second is debatable, for all this comes across as an excuse for the filmmakers to provide an hour and a half of unfettered and tasteless violence, with cardboard characters and a thin, predictable plot.

Had the plot been more solid, the characters more layered and the ultimate message even slightly nuanced, The Purge: Anarchy may have something worthwhile to say. But as it is, it is barely more than an hour and 40 minutes of the protagonists on the run from gangs of masked, armed savages hell-bent on murder and destruction; the filmmakers going about their business with unabashed glee.

Some scenes are more gratuitous than others – the lecherous building supervisor threaten-ing Eva and her daughter is completely unnecessary. The plotline featuring Leo’s personal vendetta is one we’ve seen myriad times before with a predictable outcome.

Moreover, the story is accentuated by plotlines in which the poor and homeless are mercilessly targeted by the authorities in a population control exercise, while the rich use the Purge as a source of entertainment, organising private ‘hunts’ using random citizens kidnapped off the streets as targets.

As social commentary it fails; as entertainment even more so. The Purge: Anarchy is little more than a pointless exercise in bad taste featuring bland protagonists and ugly antagonists caught up in an endless cycle of brutality.

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