The Purge: Anarchy - DVD Review

'DeMonaco fleshes out his world episodically but for the most part successfully, giving Los Angeles during the Purge a claustrophobic, post-apocalyptic feel'.

Amongst the many problems with writer and director James DeMonaco's 2013 film The Purge,
perhaps the most critical to its failure was the lack of exploration of the world in which the story took place. DeMonaco introduced an intriguing dystopian near-future USA in which almost all criminal activity is made legal annually for one twelve hour period in order to reduce crime throughout the rest of the year, then proceeded to churn out an uninspired home invasion story which utilised very little of his set-up. Even after being largely disappointed with The Purge, I firmly believe that DeMonaco's central premise holds a great deal of potential waiting to be tapped.

Whilst sequel The Purge: Anarchy doesn't fix all the problems seen in the first film, DeMonaco at the very least moves things in the right direction. The director's exploration of considerably more of the world of his franchise is the best decision he could have made. Away from the affluent middle class neighbourhood to which the first film was restricted, The Purge: Anarchy gives us a much more comprehensive picture of just what the annual Purge is all about. DeMonaco introduces us to three separate narratives during his opening act, before drawing characters from each together at the start of the second. Whilst none of the characters or their individual stories feels particularly successful or developed on their own, once they join the others for the primary story and are let loose into the annual Purge things notably improve.

Frank Grillo's character, known only as "Sergeant", comes across something like Bruce Campbell doing his second-best Kurt Russell impersonation and provides a solid focal point for DeMonaco's story, his motives and intentions intriguingly unclear for much of the film. The potential that waitress Eva (Carmen Ejogo) and her precocious daughter Cali (Zoƫ Soul) hold thanks to circumstances set up during the opening act is disappointingly squandered, but both still manage some decent interplay with Grillo's character. Less successful are couple Shane (Zach Gilford) and Liz (Kiele Sanchez), sharing between them one fairly straightforward plot point that it's difficult to care about.

DeMonaco fleshes out his world episodically but for the most part successfully, giving Los Angeles during the Purge a claustrophobic, post-apocalyptic feel. The director attempts some social commentary - the homeless hiding in subway tunnels just to make it through night; an auction for the wealthy and powerful to purchase their own Purge victims - which usually works well enough, even if it rarely does more than scratch the surface of any issues in a somewhat blunt fashion.

What is really missing from DeMonaco's sequel, however, is something that the first film also sorely missed: genuine exploration of and justification for The Purge's implementation. Just how did this version of America arrive at such a terrible a state of affairs that such an extreme "solution" was sanctioned? The third film in The Purge franchise, due for release in 2016, is currently set to be a prequel based around the first ever Purge and reportedly will tackle just these questions. If DeMonaco can provide some satisfying answers, whilst building on the good work and learning from the errors made in both The Purge: Anarchy and the original film, he could end up rounding off his trilogy with its most successful entry of all.

By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

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