“The Purge,” junior, is not a horror movie. “Anarchy,” writer and director James DeMonaco’s title for the second movie in the series, is an action movie with a political side.
This is unfortunate. Horror movies allow opportunities for imagination to overcome deficits in production budget. But moviegoers have different ideas about action pictures. They should have stars in them. They should be spectacular, particularly if they are set in the future or the distant past.
Both kinds of films require comic relief, too. “Anarchy” doesn’t have stars, doesn’t have spectacular images or sequences, doesn’t have comedy. For a long stretch it is dull. Then it gets silly.
The premise, introduced in last year’s superior “The Purge,” is that by 2023 the U.S. government has somehow mandated that once every March (during the time when the NCAA basketball tournament is going), almost all violent crime will be legal for twelve hours.
The first film showed how one suburban family tried to survive a purge, fighting off outsiders as they hunkered down in their fortified home. It was sort of fun.
In the new film, the first movie’s unspoken notion—that popular numbers were the important force—has become a political pitch. The purge is actually a way for the hated wealthy to eliminate some of the poor from our citizenry.
In fact, rich on poor violence has become a nearly mystic patriotic-religious rite, celebrated with America-praising prayer circles just before the hacking and shooting begins. Now I know that in real life there are people who enjoy getting whipped up in self-righteous jealousy of the rich. It is kind of unintentionally comic that this movie reverses socio-economic roles—the rich get whipped up into expensive frenzies against the poor.
Viewers are introduced to six sets of characters which will merge, converge, and be cut between. Eve is a waitress with a teen daughter and a sick father to support. So that we don’t miss the political bent of the show, DeMonaco has made the cost of Pop’s medicine an issue. Surely by 2023 the government will have solved that problem.
As the purge starts, Pop leaves a note for his daughter and sneaks off. He has taken a couple of hundred grand (for his family) to be sacrificed by a rich family. Why they want to off him, I was never clear.
Then there’s the separating couple whose automobile breaks down just as the purge starts. They eventually take shelter in the armored car driven by a well-armed gunman (Frank Grillo) who also protects Eve and daughter when they are rousted from their house.
Those doing the rousting are government employees in high-tech semi-trucks. Our hero kills a bunch of those guys and the survivors keep following our party for the rest of the night. Also tailing along are a gang of masked skateboarders with machetes. They turn out to be kidnappers who sell those they capture for more of that slaughtering by rich guys.
The last group we meet are the revolutionaries who think the purge is just anti-poor. They fight back by finding and killing rich people.
The action is straight out of “The Warriors.” Once our hero’s car fails, his group has to sneak along the sidewalks, eventually landing in the home of Eve’s co-worker. But there is a shoot-out there. And the death squads in semis find them. And they are kidnapped by the mask wearers.
The rights to kill our quintet of characters is auctioned off by soap opera veteran Judith McConnell. Then we see what it is that was driving our hero all night long. And there’s a predictable ending.
None of this shocks or surprises, much less horrifies. And as straight action, the movie is missing humor, name actors, and spectacular scenes.
But worst of all “The Purge: Anarchy’s” sin is that it is stupidly political in ways viewers will find difficult to forget. We’re closing in on elections. Already we hear too much about politics every day.