‘The Purge: Anarchy’ Review

Published 9 months ago by , Updated October 7th, 2014 at 1:11 am,

The Purge Anarchy Reviews starring Frank Grillo The Purge: Anarchy Review

The Purge: Anarchy is a step down from the original in terms of narrative (and that’s saying something), but the basic promise of the series – thrills, kills, and mayhem – is still fulfilled in satisfying fashion.

The Purge: Anarchy returns us to that nightmare vision of America in which “The New Founding Fathers” decree that for one night a year, all crime (including murder) is legal. This time, however, instead of one family’s ordeal within their home, we follow a would-be vigilante, a married couple stranded in the slaughterhouse of downtown, and a mother and her daughter from the projects, as they all collide in a desperate bid to escape the worst maniacs and predators roaming the streets.

But as the night of horrors wears on, the vigilante and his charges begin to realize that The Purge is about much more than the primal release people celebrate. As they begin to understand the designs and intentions behind the blood and chaos, the rag-tag group of survivors find themselves on the front lines of a social revolution.

The Cast of The Purge Anarchy The Purge: Anarchy Review

The Cast of ‘The Purge Anarchy’

The first Purge used a scaled-down setting and intriguing (or stupid, depending how you feel) premise to create a flawed but ultimately thrilling story about complacency and social inequality in the vein of Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery”. Well, writer/director James DeMonaco returns to script and direct this sequel, which attempts to blow the doors of The Purge open into a wider look at both the mayhem and larger socio-political ideas involved with this savage ritual. The end result is another B-movie thriller that keeps things tense and somewhat satisfying moment-to-moment; however, a birds-eye view of the story, characters and themes at work in Anarchy quickly reveals just how thin and nonsensical this sequel is underneath all the fright and carnage.

Visually, DeMonaco once again excels at building tension and then executing (no pun) thrilling action/horror encounters. Unlike the first film – where the single-setting format created a sense of restricted and repetitive movement – Anarchy‘s bigger setting allows for a more traditional, linear, dark odyssey thriller that actually works in the film’s favor. The combination of tight urban streets, dark alleyways and cramped apartment complexes allows DeMonaco to stage a fun mix of both scare and action sequences. That’s about the best thing The Purge: Anarchy has going for it: the non-stop pace and tension tends to propel you through the mess that is this story.

GOD in The Purge Anarchy The Purge: Anarchy Review

GOD in ‘The Purge Anarchy’

It’s whenever the thrills relax into slower sections of paper-thin pontificating that The Purge: Anarchy‘s reach far exceeds its grasp. Woven into the not-so-sub-text is a sloppy revenge fantasy aimed at the Occupy crowd, which boggles the mind with contradictions between its preachy message and the onscreen carnage. This is a movie in which the those fighting against a culture of gun violence and economic inequality run amok pump as many bullets into as many bodies as the alleged bad guys do. It’s righteous revolution to the tune of an AK-47; as an attempt at serious commentary, The Purge: Anarchy is pretty much laughable.

Frank Grillo (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) once again proves to be a solid character actor – and in this case, an effective leading man. He’s rough, tough, yet gruffly sensitive and witty too. There will likely be more center stage roles in his future. Real-life couple Zach Gilford (The Last Stand) and Kiele Sanchez (The Glades) get a suitable arc as a troubled married couple targeted by a group of teenage hunters. Sure, it’s your basic cliche slasher movie setup (troubled couple reconciles through tribulation), but it’s a relatively solid subplot to the film, nonetheless.

Frank Grillo in The Purge Anarchy The Purge: Anarchy Review

Frank Grillo in ‘The Purge: Anarchy’

Not so solid is the story arc involving poor waitress Eva Sanchez (Carmen Ejogo), her politically radical daughter, Cali (Zoë Soul) and Eva’s father, Papa Rico (John Beasley). The film positions Eva as the first (ergo, the main) character we encounter – yet she never develops beyond being the rattled dead-weight member of the crew. Conversely, Cali is the stereotypical horror movie character whose questionable logic makes you roll your eyes. While Soul tries to infuse, well, soul into her critically minded youth, speaking with a child’s earnestness and naiveté  – in the context of a horror movie – just makes you look like easy pickings. It’s not an endearing quality. Beasley’s presence is truly pointless, and aside from being hollow vehicles to inspire Grillo’s character development, Eva and Cali are not characters who ever seem to justify their presence in the narrative.

Other character actors like Jack Conley (Fast & Furious), Michael K. Williams (Boardwalk Empire), Justina Machado (Six Feet Under) and Noel Gugliemi (Training Day) show up for some pivotal cameo roles – along with a few other players who are best left to surprise.

Carmen Ejogo and Zoe Soul in The Purge Anarchy The Purge: Anarchy Review

Carmen Ejogo and Zoë Soul in ‘The Purge: Anarchy’

In the end, The Purge: Anarchy is a step down from the original in terms of narrative (and that’s saying something), but the basic promise of the series – thrills, kills, and mayhem – is still fulfilled in satisfying fashion. Some people may find the raucous, half-cooked political overtones rousing, but many others will find them silly and distracting. However, the mix of lofty (but dunderheaded) social critiques and freaky mayhem is what The Purge franchise is all about, for better or worse – and even as diluted product, Anarchy is still a bit of guilty pleasure fun.


Our Rating:

2.5 out of 5
(Fairly Good)

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  1. So basically, they didn’t know how to create a properly claustrophobic and scary film based in one setting so the sequel is just “hey, lets go into the streets!” as an excuse to show wider carnage in lieu of actual characterisation and storytelling?

    Colour me surprised.

    What needs to happen is, horror movie ideas need to be treated like a slow-roast dinner. You take your ideas, find the hook that separates it from everything else and then let it simmer while you work on it and improve the premise over time rather than just throwing every cliche into the oven and hoping that gravy can cover up the taste of burnt food.

    The Purge as an idea (admittedly used multiple times over the decades anyway) sounded decent but the payoff was terrible and cliched and just plain dumb in every sense. To read that this one is actually WORSE than the first one?

    All I can say is “wow” and then shake my head in disappointment.

    • There are easy ways to avoid cliches that seem super hard for filmmakers to figure out, simple solution: Don’t write them in the first place, right? I mean, how hard is it to write a script that isn’t cliched? I mean, it CAN’T be that hard, right?

      I know “The Purge” (I) was flawed, sure, but it still told a pretty good story. Of course those kids Ethan Hawke had them were dumber than a bag of rocks, I mean seriously? But overall it was good, the creepy Purger at the door, always smiling uncontrollably: creepy.

      • I dunno, I found him more annoying than creepy. I guess I’m too used to seeing, reading and writing about deranged people who smile a lot and act normal to see it as anything different now.

        Genuinely didn’t enjoy the story either, it was wasted potential in my mind (coming at this as a writer, I guess if I wasn’t then I’d have maybe enjoyed it more instead of finding it samey).

        It’s like the time I worked in a chocolate store, seemed like a great idea at first but after a few days, I was sick of the sight of it and refused to eat it until 7 months after I’d quit that job to take work elsewhere instead. I’m finding that other longtime horror fans (of at least 15-20 years experience watching the genre) are also becoming tired and bored with the current generation (spanning 2002 up until now) and hoping for a gem to claw its demon-possessed carcass to the surface and genuinely surprise and impress us and remind everyone why horror can be a great genre.

        As for avoiding cliches, it can be done, surprisingly. I just assume a lot of horror cliches are thrown in more because they assume it has to happen a certain way rather than lazy writing (at least, I hope so).

  2. What is going on? No star ratings anymore?????

    • I Wish. There’s your lousy star rating…

      • I was just confused because usually there’s an overall rating and I use that to ultimately judge if its worth watching.

  3. I saw this film a few weeks ago and I agree with your review. The best way i would describe this film is that it is for the first 3 quarters almost an homage to grind films like “Warriors”, and “Escape From New York” for feel. And that is the most entertaining part of the film and the most fun. But… imitation will only carry this kind of film so far (especially when there is nothing of a semblance of humor to be found unlike the classics the director is appropriating from liberally) until the motivations for watching seem more like excuses. Finally the watcher has to surrender to the obviousness that there is just no interest in plotting or depth to discover with this film. Which let’s face it there wasn’t much with the first Purge. Personally I found the last section to be so horrible it went past painful or tolerable to just plain un-watchable. But I would not compare the first film in style to this sequel. Especially from the directing choices that are made from, Demonaco. I was a slight bit impressed with the expansion of space that the director was able to use to create tension, unlike the first film’s over abundance of claustrophobia over intimacy for ersatz suspense. Now if this director will just not compose his own scripts there might be a talent waiting behind the awful cliches. Then again,… maybe not.

  4. Having JUST finished watching this movie, I disagree with you on ALMOST EVERYTHING you said. Eva not evolving as a character, yes you are right on that. But Cali was an already evolved character from the word go! Informed politically, scared but not scared enough to ACTUALLY DO s***, unlike her mother, connected with the main “hero”.
    Frank Grillo – HORRIBLE at keeping a straight face during some of the movies most serious parts! – he kept smirking & grinning throughout when everyone else was in character freaking out about the government-funded kill machine trucks. Go back & WATCH, you could CLEARLY see outright SMILES, & him biting his lip to kept a straight face! – HORRIBLE acting on his part during the scenes that are supposed to drawUS – the audience – in at the beginning & middle!

  5. Wow man, I almost didn’t see this movie today because of your review but I’m glad I did. I really dug it and this is coming from someone who didn’t just hate but despised the first film for being so generic and throwing away a perfectly good concept. This movie fulfills that concept’s potential and delivers the thrills in spades. To me it felt like one of the best John Carpenter movies he never made. It’s like Escape from New York meets The Punisher set during the end of days. Yea, if that sounds good to you then check it out.

    This film SHOULD make Frank Grillo a leading man as he was so amazing in it I can forgive if some of the other characters aren’t as great. I loved where the movie went, didn’t think it was heavy handed at all in it’s message and just felt like a good little down-and-dirty thriller that finally delivered on the promise made by the trailers for the first film. I give it a solid B+ and it might even make my Top 10 of the Year So Far List, I had that much fun. Ended up watching it twice back-to-back which I never do and it was even better the second time.

  6. Concept handled better and much quicker in the original Star Trek episode – Return of the Archons.

  7. This is what I expected from the 1st & now that their on the right track I expect the 3rd will be even better. Im sure im in the minority but I really liked this movie!

  8. Any person who enjoyed a single second of the first Purge is a person not to be trusted.

    • I don’t trust anybody who enjoys horror films in general, period.

  9. Phenomenal sequel. Please produce one Purge a year giving underground directors a shot. It would establish a Indie platform for cerebral ultra violence. serious. The director avenged the crime of his first film.

    Frank Grillo delivers great range and great charisma and with cool subtlety to his character. The actor would be a perfect punisher – perhaps in a “Last Punisher Story” reboot epic finale.

    great story and striking visuals! Loved the movie

  10. Cool now Im going to see it. If this movie is even half of what the first movie trailer promised I am in.

  11. Not that it really matters but I disagree. I had no interest in seeing this movie and I was surprised at how much I really liked it. The tension was insane and Frank Grillo was awesome, before Winter Soldier I had no idea who he was but after this movie I look forward to seeing any film that he’s apart of. I also appreciated how they added to the mythology by creating Michael K’s character and his new group of radicals. The only thing really holding this movie back for me was Zoe Soul herself, I never bought into her character and she came off as either whiny, preachy or both. Oh well, sorry you didn’t like the movie, personally I can’t wait for the next one.

  12. I literally hated the firt movie ( Purge 1) and i felt like the trailer pulled a bait an switch on us. This film however, was leaps and bounds better. I wouldnt classify this as horrer, but more of a thriller. I would certainly recommend this film for anythone who watched the trailer for the first film and was excited (and eventually severly let down).

  13. the purge anarchy is a weak attempt at cinema in general. its a ripoff of the warriors, the game, hunger games, and about 3000 different attempts at making the audience feel uncomfortable. this film is boring and tedious, with no flare of talent or respect for cinematic appreciation. Some film makers just depreciate the art of credibility and substance and rely on their un-deserved illusion to coast them through the world of cinema. this movie is terrible and useless.

  14. Best darn movie so far this year. Great characters except the mom n daughter. A bit goofy n out of character to me. Sensational ending, best I could ask for. Had us on the edge of our seats, but very pleased with the ending. Lots of action and purging types. Cant wait for the next one. LOVED IT.@$$!!!

  15. This movie is utter crap! Ironic how someone can make millions off a movie attacking the wealthy and portraying them as evil sadistic murderers (hmm I think I remember the Gates and Kochs giving millions in charity and starting foundations helping others).

    This movie is nothing more than an attack on the 2nd amendment and pushing anti-american ideologies. The use of the American flag as being portrayed as a symbol of an evil agenda sickens me. As well as the disrespect it gives to our service men. I can guarantee James DeManaco sits in a nice house in the hills with top notch security and body guards with guns protecting him. Enough using the audience as pawns to push your anti-capitalism views that just happen to be the ones that allow you to succeed in this country creating such garbage as this.

    There are many good people in this country working to close the gap between social, economic and racial disparity and this movie only aims to further increase it for the writer’s personal profit. I will not watch the third purge. I refuse to give another dollar to someone getting wealthy off degrading those of wealth.

  16. Wow, 12 hrs of free crime, and NO terrorists organization thinking of a plan to nuke the city…Impressive logic.