The Purge: Anarchy is the far superior sequel to the disappointing The Purge from last year. This series of movies has an interesting idea: in America, all crime is legal for one night of the year – the stated goal is to allow you to purge all the anger and resentments you have in you, thus allowing you to be a good citizen the rest of the year. The unstated goal is to purge the streets of the poor and undesirable. Shhh!
The Purge Anarchy is actually about this, unlike the first film which took the premise and pretty much ignored it. While that was a simple home invasion movie that was ultimately like all the other home invasion movies, this one is an angry, violent, R rated action movie with a message. The message is all about the rich and the poor, the haves and have nots, and the 99%. I mentioned a few days ago that the Korean movie Snowpiercer hurt itself by being so on the nose about its social injustice message – this movie walks a finer line.
The movie follows three groups of people who find themselves outside their homes on the night of the Purge in downtown LA. Only one of them wanted to be there, the others aren’t prepared for it. The claustrophobic horror movie the was the first one is stripped away and we see what this Purge idea is really all about. It feels like the producers heard the complaints about the first and then made a sequel that corrected the ship and allowed them the budget to explore their ideas.
But just because this movie fixes the problems of the earlier film, that doesn’t make it a good movie. What makes it a good – surprisingly good – movie is that its just an outright tension-filled action flick that knows how to create a sense of dread, paranoia, and helplessness. This is effective film making in the world of a B movie.
I want to say this movie comes down on the side of violent revolution and anger but I think that it’s more nuanced than that. There are people who protest the purge in it and they are nominally the good guys, but it feels like maybe their solution is no different than the purgers themselves. Given how the movie resolves one of its character’s plots, it also suggest there are better solutions. I like that about this film.
I think there’s every chance you will or will not see this movie regardless of what I say here. It’s either the kind of movie you’d go to or not – the kind of flick you might watch late at night when nothing else is on or not. I’m just here to say that it’s a far better movie than expected and it delivers solid action with a little bit of a point.