The Purge: Anarchy
Wild in the Streets
by Glenn Lovell
How do you like your dystopian nightmares? Sunny side up, star-driven, culled from the latest bestseller? Or hardboiled and nasty? If you’re partial to the former, you’re probably a “Hunger Games” follower. If you’re taste runs to the latter, you’re a “Purge” person.
I’m more interested in straight-for-the-jugular exploitation, so I looked forward to “The Purge: Anarchy,” James DeMonaco’s sequel to his surprise hit about a near-future world where elected officials not only condone but encourage homicide one night a year. It’s their way of thinning the herd, so to speak, of keeping unemployment in check and ‒ nice touch this ‒ street crime down
DeMonaco was obviously inspired by George Orwell and Jonathan Swift (see “A Modest Proposal”). His “Purge” movies, which target the homeless, are cynical and violent, and, yes, given the economy, more than a little prescient.
“Purge 2” is set in 2023, the sixth year of the “cleansing.” In contrast to the last installment, which took place inside a high-security dwelling, this one unfolds mainly on the street. The principals: Sergeant (Frank Grillo), a cop looking for payback; Liz and Shane (Kiele Sanchez and Zach Gilford), an estranged couple whose car breaks down on the bad side of town; Eva and daughter Cali (Carmen Ejogo and Zöe Soul) who are pulled screaming from their apartment by some sort of paramilitary unit.
Sergeant stumbles upon the others and, over the next 12 hours, plays reluctant protector. Which is really saying something because these people don’t seem worth saving, especially the pain-in-the-ass daughter played by Soul.
As the five make their way across no-man’s-land, they face a gauntlet of masked wackos, machete- and flamethrower-wielding rednecks, and, new to the mix, uniformed stormtroopers tasked with reversing the sliding body count. If you saw the Zoë Bell vehicle “Raze” or, going back a few years, the grimly satirical “A Boy and His Dog,” you’ll guess the final “Aha, we’re safe ‒ !” twist.
DeMonaco pumps more energy into this mostly predictable horror/sci-fi hybrid than it deserves. He also dusts off what must be a record number of genre clichés, starting with “I’m glad we took the back road” and including “We’ll be fine, I promise.”
For the more politically-minded, the leader of a Black Panther-inspired counterinsurgency obliges with the battle whoop “Get ready to bleed, you rich sons-a-bitches!”
THE PURGE: ANARCHY With Frank Grillo, Carmen Ejogo, Zach Gilford, Kiele Sanchez, Zöe Soul, Michael K. Williams. Written, directed by James DeMonaco. 103 min. Rated R (for nonstop violence, profanity)