(Dir: James DeMonaco, 2014)
As if by magic the real issue with last year's The Purge is immediately dissolved in The Purge: Anarchy. Okay, not magic, but someone involved with the production was paying attention. These pair of films are grounded in a sci-fi concept that's ever so eerily plausible whilst gleefully ticking the high-concept box labelled "why has no-one thought of this before?". So to waste this concept - once a year all crime is legal for a twelve hour period to allow citizens to purge themselves - on a bland home invasion story really misses the scope of what could be achieved. The Purge: Anarchy recognises this, shoots for better, and gets halfway there.
This time round we get to experience the streets during an annual purge. This is what our cruel sense of curiosity wants to see. There's the couple whose car breaks down at the worst possible time; the mother and daughter forced to flee onto the streets; the lone man with a very defined purging purpose. Sure it's another survival piece, but one on a grander canvas with all manner of ghouls living out their sick and twisted fantasies as this group desperately band together. The situations they walk into are inevitably rife with the cliché but that's never stopped something being an entertaining watch. Frank Grillo's lone man on a mission, armed to the teeth with more than just his sombre purposefulness, is far more intriguing than the rest of the cast combined. Why? Because he carries a no-nonsense man-of-action essence about him with a certain underlying cool. In an alternate story he could've made an awesome avenging angel taking down the worst purging perpetrators (perhaps in the vein of The Punisher's Frank Castle).
Without being remotely revelatory this core story is entertaining and is more of the ilk of what this idea deserves. But it unnecessarily loses it's way when determined to bring the classism and heavy-handed societal issues back into focus. Absolutely there's something interesting about the juggernaut with a man and a giant gun in the back and the mystery as to why it's on the streets. But shift to how the rich want to purge and how that affects our protagonists and it feels like the awkward shoehorning of ideas into the film. Couple that with fleeting hints of the resistance fighters who want to see an end to the purging (surely this is setting-up for a third film?) and some of this feels like a different film. Of course an over-arching idea like this deserves exploration, but in this world of creepy face-masks and over-the-top ideas of how people might approach killing, a different tact would've worked. So the overall concept is improving and we're getting more of what we want, but there's still a way to to go make it something special. This will do for now.