Rated: R for strong disturbing violence, and for language. Reviewed by: Jim Release date: July 18, 2014 Released by: Universal Studios, Inc.
A 2013 sleeper 'sci-fi' hit (that sounded like a colonic evacuation and needed a suspension of disbelief) gets a follow-up in a way that links home-invasion thriller with social allegory expanding on the premise perhaps in some ways to promote post-screening conversion.
But, The Purge: Anarchy has more on its mind that connects its violent intentions to an aspect of the torture-porn formula and even the zombie picture with its share of cruel situations (at least teasingly) in ways that may be reminiscent of what fueled the success of arguably skillfully made but very unnerving ones like Hostel.
So, in James DeMonaco's arguably less predictable and heavy-handed morality tale with a spin that has something to say about modern capitalism it's a year later, March 22, 2023. When no law enforcement and emergency services will be available for a dusk to dawn period the "new founding fathers" have prospered in significantly lowering crime and unemployment rates. Which means eradicating the homeless, misfits and poor by robbing, maiming and homicide, but an insurgence has begun around the L.A. setting of the film through the appearance of Carmelo (Michael K. Williams) that helps gives its namesake resonance.
A mostly derivative, if intermittently taut and droll excursion doesn't center around the elite as played with affectation by Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey whose family prospered because of the annual observance. Now the grizzled tale concerns five desperate, diverse folks including a revenge-minded grubby guy
(Frank Grillo of Captain America: Winter Soldier) who heads out into the chaos picking up a stranded couple Shane (Zach Gilford) and Liz (Kiele Sanchez) as well as a mother Eva (Carmen Ejogo of Sparkle) and Cali (Zoe Soul) who run from their home after assailants destroy it.
A night of survival in the City of Angels has DeMonaco doing his best to create tension whether down in a subterranean mass-transit section or at the home of Tanya (Justina Machado), a friend/colleague of Eva (who was looking for a promotion in her position) where the driven (seemingly black-ops trained) man was promised some transportation needed to get things right.
But, in the midst of the mayhem concerning Carmelo's disciples and those administering justice for those verboten to be killed during this period and following the mantra "United We Purge" the filmmaking tries to convey its pretensions at least through an 'old, elegant woman' (Judith McConnell) and a sniper who knows something about the laconic, morose man finally revealed as 'Sergeant'.
Anarchy has its share of lighter moments though a good actress like Ejogo is mostly wasted around more amusing interludes between Soul and Grillo and perhaps (judging from audience reaction) Gilford and Sanchez based on the state of their relationship and what a relative hasn't been informed of about it yet. It's probably a little more gory and shocking than its predecessor as characters again are trapped by a higher establishment (but not as well delineated as in sagas like The Hunger Games).
A gangster element is felt through the thuggish unity around those irate with the new founding fathers there might be enough appeal in a less brutal denouement as March 23, 700am can't arrive soon enough. Many unfamiliar to the scenario may ponder the origin of the observance while others might have hoped for more of lurid consistent thrills of like those in the Dawn of the Dead remake not sure-handed in a 'you-are-there' way but thinking of more possibilities around this new 'American tradition' in a society where slaughter trends ever upward.
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