Movie Reviews & Interviews from Washington

‘The Purge: Anarchy’ Review: Starring Frank Grillo, Carmen Ejogo & Zach Gilford

Emergency Announcement: “This is your Emergency Broadcast System announcing the commencement of the Annual Purge. At the siren, all crime, including murder, will be legal for 12 hours. All emergency services will be suspended. Your government thanks you for your participation.”

Director and screenwriter James DeMonaco returns for the sequel to last year’s The Purge, starring Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey. What could have been one of the most memorable horror films of last year, ended up being a less then average home invasion thriller, despite its intriguing premise and its $65 million box office bucks. Instantly intrigued on the announcement that DeMonaco would be returning to this story in a sequel, we hoped that his idea of 12 hours of anarchy would be more developed the second time around. DeMonaco succeeds in several aspects of the film, but there’s still something missing.

Crime and unemployment rates have never been lower after The New Founders of America have declared one night a year where all crimes are legal. Set in 2023, exactly one year after the Sandin family home invasion occurred in the previous Purge, The Purge: Anarchy takes the story to the streets of downtown Los Angeles on the night of the 6th Annual Purge.

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A little before the Purge commences, we meet several people: Sergeant (Frank Grillo), who is gearing up to head out into the night, Eva (Carmen Ejogo) and her daughter Cali (Zoe Soul), who are locking down their city apartment, and Shane (Zach Gilford) and his wife Liz (Gilford’s real-life wife Kiele Sanchez), who are left stranded in the city after their car breaks down. After a series of events, the five strangers cross paths during the night and decide to stick together in order to survive.

The Purge: Anarchy does a lot more this second time around, taking us to the streets of the annual Purge versus subjecting the audience to a single home invasion in the first film. But DeMonaco is still missing something in his intriguing idea and although this sequel is more fulfilling, it is much less horrifying than the first film. The Purge: Anarchy feels more like an action movie/thriller than a horror film. Whether that is what the director was going for or not, the scary elements of the first film were missed this second time around.

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What works in DeMonaco’s sequel is that his screenplay is more flushed out than his first, as he uses the five lead actors to show up the anarchy that is happening in the city. Another huge driving force of this sequel is Frank Grillo (2014’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier), who is easily the best and the only non-annoying character in the film. Grillo is completely comfortable in the role as the badass Sergeant and the scenes where he takes on Purgers throughout the night are fun and intense.

DeMonaco still hasn’t explored the Purge on an international level or telling the story from a Purger’s perspective, leaving that and other topics to cover in future Purge films. Although the sequel covered more of what we wanted to see in the first, DeMonaco still needs to find the balance of horror film storytelling and give us more interesting characters.

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