The Purge: Anarchy Movie Review
Written by Daniel Benson
DVD released by Universal Home Entertainment
Written and directed by James DeMonaco
2014, 103 minutes, Rated 15 (UK)
DVD released on 17th November 2014
Frank Grillo as Sergeant
Carmen Ejogo as Eva Sanchez
Zach Gilford as Shane
Kiele Sanchez as Liz
Zoë Soul as Cali
Justina Machado as Tanya
2013's The Purge bears all the characteristics of a typical Blumhouse production: high concept, low budget and a return on investment that must have had the men in suits rubbing their hands with glee. A worldwide box office gross of almost $90 million from an estimated budget of $3 million isn't bad, whichever way you look at it.
Following quickly in its footsteps is the follow-up, the similarly profitable The Purge: Anarchy. Moving the action from the confines of one family's home in the first film to the streets of Los Angeles during Purge night, the sequel explores an entirely new facet to the fictitious annual event and ramps up the action to new levels.
Frank Grillo is the central character, Sergeant – not a million miles away from his portrayal of Brock Rumlow in Captain America: The Winter Soldier – a gruff tough-guy who chooses to be out cruising the streets on the most dangerous night of the year. Through a series of coincidences, he takes under his wing a young couple who break down on their way home and a mother and daughter whose apartment block is targeted by an unknown but highly organised unit that roams the streets in a huge, black truck.
While there's not much in the way of ground-breaking ideas in The Purge: Anarchy, it does expand on the concepts introduced by the first film and it is a tightly-paced and engaging action thriller. Those hoping for a more horror-orientated experience will be disappointed; the original home invasion conceit was borderline horror depending on your outlook, but save for a few creepy masks there's little to disturb and unsettle in Anarchy.
However, if your kicks come from fight-for-survival journeys, then there's a lot to like here. The battle across dangerous city streets, with stop-offs at safe points that prove to be anything but safe bring to mind Judgement Night (1993) and The Warriors (1979). There are a few sub-plots in effect too, with the married couple going through relationship difficulties leading viewers to believe there may be a clichéd reunion at the finale, the raison d'être for Sergeant being so keen to be on the streets and government intervention to make the annual Purge more effective.
One of the more interesting minor stories is something that was introduced in the first film and continues here: the participation of the rich in the annual event. In The Purge, the main antagonists were a bunch of rich kids out for their kicks on Purge night. Here, the wealthy and affluent have organised events in which they partake of their catharsis in a closed and protected environment. The small threads of story weaving through the films show that there is much more to explore in the Purge universe.
Two highly successful films in as many years means we are unlikely to see the last of this franchise. Who knows? Like the event it depicts, maybe the sequels will become an annual event too, at least until the box office dries up.