The first Purge posited a relatively clever science fiction plot: For twelve hours every year all crime is legal. To work within its low budget, it confined most of that activity to one house, and it was slightly better than expected, but it didn’t seem to capitalize on the premise as well as it could. But its sequel The Purge: Anarchy takes that idea to the place it should have started: On the street. Following five people who are caught in the middle of purge night by either choice or accident, it does a much better job of exploring the possibilities of what might happen if for one night a year, all crime was legal. Frank Grillo stars in the film, and my review of the film’s Blu-ray follows after the jump.
The film introduces us to the main characters and their problems: Eva Sanchez (Carmen Ejogo) is a waitress who just wants to go home and be with her sick father and daughter Cali (Zoe Soul). Sargent Leo (Grillo) is looking to go out for the night and get revenge for some unspecified reason on an unknown target, while husband Shane and wife Liz (real life married couple Zach Gilford and Kiele Sanchez) are headed to his sister’s place to tell her about their upcoming divorce. Kids ready to purge sabotage the married couple’s car, while Eva finds out that her neighbors aren’t as friendly as she would hope, while there’s also groups out purging that look like tactical military units. Eventually all five protagonists end up together, with Eva promising a car to Frank if he gets them to safety. But on a night like the purge, even a seemingly safe place can turn violent.
Where the initial film is lightly political, it seemed more about a Straw Dogs-siege type situation where it becomes about the paranoia and the violence, which it does just okay, and is why I find it inferior to the sequel. The first film became numbing after a certain point because it became about a group of teens against a family. Here the politics are put front and center, but also there’s a better group of people to follow and a heightened sense of danger. Written and helmed by the first film’s auteur James DeMonaco, the film is shot all over downtown Los Angeles, and the locations are used well.
But as is made explicit by the black revolutionary character played by Michael K. Williams, this movie is suggesting that the purge is done to oppress the poor, who can’t defend themselves as readily as the rich, and is made explicit in at least two sequences when the rich use purge night to indulge their worst fantasies/tendencies (fortunately it’s never made too literal with something like cannibalism, but that doesn’t seem out of the question). Though the class commentary is surface-level, it at least harkens to what can make horror movies the most alive and most subversive genre in cinema. Indeed, horror often functions best when it’s reacting to the world around it. The film also benefits from not being found footage in an era where that’s often the dominant horror style. For better or worse, The Purge: Anarchy is one of (if not the) best studio-made horror films of the year.
Universal presents the film on Blu-ray with a DVD and digital copy. The film is presented in widescreen (2.35:1) and in DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, and it’s a great surround track that heightens the jump scares, while the film (which was shot on digital video) looks good, though sometimes reveals the limitations of digital cinema. Extras consist of five deleted scenes (8 min.) that don’t add much (like more backstory on the dissolving marriage), and a making of (8 min.).