Yes, “The Purge” franchise has an outlandish premise that would never happen in real life (I hope), but in the cinematic world of this America where all crime is legal for 12 hours once a year- I get invested in the story. It’s the “what would you do?” type moments that had the audience I saw it with laughing at implausible actions/decisions or cheering when the underdog gets a kill. It’s the moral dilemmas that the characters face that allow the viewers to take sides and the ride of the annual Purge.
In the first film, the story focused on an affluent family who tried to bunker down in their secure home through the night. Forces inside and outside of the house caused them to have to fight for their lives, and thus made it a home invasion film. “The Purge: Anarchy” takes us out into the city of Los Angeles to get a more expansive view of what happens during Purge hours, and a deeper look at the depraved mentality of Purgers. The movie also puts together a rag tag team of strangers who unite for the common cause of survival, which makes for an interesting mix of characters to watch.
The film’s central characters are Eva Sanchez (Carmen Ejogo) and her daughter Cali (Zoe Soul) who are a lower middle class family trying to make ends meet. After narrowly escaping a neighbor’s attempt to rape them, a mysterious Sergeant (Frank Grillo) saves them from being taken by a highly trained tactical team. During the brief moment it took the Sergeant to abandon his Purge ambitions to play good Samaritan, his unlocked car becomes a safe haven for young couple Shane (Zach Gilford) and Liz (Kiele Sanchez). With two groups of Purgers converging on the bunch, they don’t have time to argue, and are forced to work together to try and get across town to a save place.
With time ticking away for the annual Purge, the journey for the group to get across town is reminiscent of “The Warriors”. Although this film could never be a classic like the aforementioned film, it does have a similar suspense value. Suspense is the key to the Purge. The beginning of the film is leading up to commencement, and once the annual Purge commences your in suspense until it ends. Where the first “Purge” film was very reactive, the sequel allows characters to be proactive and make decisions to try and enhance their survival.
The one issue I have with “The Purge” is some of the violence within it. There are plenty of shock value kills that only further desensitize our already diminished reception of gun violence. Moments after The Purge starts we see a couple armed with guns mowed down by a man with an even bigger gun with sound effects and blood squibs to emphasize the impact of the armor piercing bullets’ devastation. Perhaps this franchise is making a statement on our society’s insane gun culture, but I don’t think it’s smart enough to do that. I do think it’s smart enough to continue to crank these films out as long as they’re making 30 times the amount it cost to make. So while some of us can appreciate this being a fictional film, it starts the age-old debate of whether films like this hurt our society more than entertain it.
“The Purge: Anarchy” is an entertaining popcorn flick. Even though it has some of its’ characters making stupid decisions in intense situations, the built in suspense keeps you entertained and engrossed in its world. Be sure to purge yourself of the deviance when you walk out of the theater!