‘The Purge: Anarchy’ Review: Binge Now, Hate Yourself Later

'The Purge: Anarchy'

Movie Rating:


When ‘The Purge‘ proved to be an unexpected hit last summer, a sequel was pretty much inevitable. However, the fact that the sequel made it to screens in roughly twelve months should have been a sign that something was very wrong. While the sequel does fix the most glaring mistake of the original, it gets so much else wrong that it proves to be just as mediocre in new and unexciting ways.

The concept of the Purge hasn’t changed a lick since the last movie. In a successful effort to curb crime, the U.S. government decided to waive all laws for twelve consecutive hours once a year. Obviously, that means a night of pure horrific anarchy, but the original film only showed us how that might affect a single household nowhere near the center of the madness, for the purposes of tedious class warfare. This time, filmgoers actually get to see the Purge. That’s the only reason for this sequel’s existence and also the only positive element of the entire movie. Sure, there are a handful of amusing shots and sequences that finally deliver on the admittedly strong concept at the heart of this series (the highlight being a single throwaway gag involving a flaming bus calmly passing through the background of one shot without the characters paying any attention), but everything surrounding those scenes is an empty-headed waste of time.

The movie follows four characters so indistinct that they don’t deserve description, after they accidentally find themselves in the middle of an unnamed city during the Purge. Fortunately, they find a protector in Frank Grillo, playing a character who looks like The Punisher, acts like The Punisher, and shares a similar back-story to The Punisher, but is absolutely not The Punisher because that would lead to a lawsuit. (Also, he drives Mad Max’s car.) Not-the-Punisher helps the boring leads through a night of anarchy. Aside from a couple of briefly explored subplots involving a militant uprising led by Michael K. Williams and government controlled Purge killings that act as sequel bait, nothing else notable happens.

The direct plunge into Purge action was a wise choice, particularly whenever the film depicts how the wealthy celebrate the event, which taps into the creepily satirical imagery that should be this franchise’s core. Yet without any characters worth caring about, there’s really no reason to pay attention beyond satisfying some sense of voyeur bloodlust. Even then, the movie preaches an anti-violence message in such a shrill and consistent tone that you can’t even enjoy that dirty pleasure guilt-free.

It’s worth noting that pretty much all of the failings of the film can be attributed to its rushed schedule. There was never a plan to make a sequel from the original concept. This movie was tossed together to hit a release date, and all the horrendous dialogue and wooden characters could very well have been created as placeholders for a second draft of the script that was never completed. That may not excuse the mediocrity and idiocy of ‘The Purge: Anarchy’, but it at least explains them. The film can only be described as a mess, and one that should quietly disappear from the thoughts of everyone except for the creators of The Punisher, who are probably owed a check.

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