In the 2013 horror film The Purge, writer and director James DeMonaco unearthed a timely parable that explored American attitudes toward the homeless and disenfranchised. With his sequel, the 2014 movie The Purge: Anarchy, DeMonaco returns with one of the most pointed political satires in recent memory.
The Purge: Anarchy is The Hunger Games with teeth. DeMonaco expands the world of the original by spreading the story to a larger group of characters. He doesn’t lose anything with the gamble. Things do become more deliberate and the sequel is more action-oriented than the original, but the stakes are high.
The movie opens in 2023 on March 21st, which is naturally the day of the Purge. The 12-hour period in which all crime is legal has proven a success, although opposition is stronger. Eva (Carmen Ejogo) heads home to wait out the Purge with her daughter Cali (Zoë Soul) and father (John Beasley), while Shane (Zach Gilford) and Liz (Kiele Sanchez) find themselves with car trouble.
An unnamed character (Frank Grillo) is gearing up for the Purge and he heads out in an armoured car of sorts. One thing leads to another and the unnamed protagonist manages to save Eva, Cali, Shane, and Liz. The group tries to survive the Purge night together, while government forces seem to have other ideas.
There is more plot and subsequently more exposition in The Purge: Anarchy, with the official introduction of the NFFA or New Founding Fathers of America. The audience sees the government for the first time and representatives play a critical role.
This plot shifts the focus with a final ploy and the change undermines the horror. It trends toward a central villain rather than suggesting that one doesn’t know where the bullets are going to come from. In The Purge, the wealthy turned on one another. By the end of The Purge: Anarchy, the inference is ironically less radical.
That’s not to say that the sequel isn’t effective, as it has the chops to go after the rich and powerful to a certain extent. A sequence that comprises people bought and sold for to liking of well-to-do “hunters” evokes Hard Target and Surviving the Game, although DeMonaco’s presentation is more lavish.
The performances are solid, from the determined Grillo to Soul’s activist-in-waiting, and the characters matter because they’re granted room to breathe in the midst of chaos. A scene involving Tanya (Justina Machado) and her family drips with dread, while a van full of decorated freaks adds danger.
While The Purge shaped itself as a bourgeois home invasion thriller, The Purge: Anarchy is more action-oriented. It emerges from what the first movie implies and rounds out ambitiously. The payoff is mostly effective. It suggests a world comfortable with deserting the expelled in favour of chasing better figures (unemployment is down, so is poverty).
And it remains pressing, especially given the carriage of a certain narcissistic apricot and his fascist proxies. DeMonaco’s understanding of how things operate is not a reach. It is mere extension, a step into a world where a fanatic moves beyond score-settling chirps and into the dominion of bullets and flame-throwers and greasepaint. A stretch? Hardly.