‘The Purge: Anarchy’: All the brutality, none of the irony of original
By BRUCE INGRAM For Sun-Times Media July 17, 2014 7:22PM
Cali (Zoe Soul, left) and her single mom (Carmen Ejogo) can’t afford security and are captured by criminals in “The Purge: Anarchy.” | UNIVERSAL PICTURES
Sergeant Frank Grillo
Eva Carmen Ejogo
Shane Zach Gilford
Liz Kiele Sanchez
Universal Pictures presents a film written and directed by James DeMonaco. Running time: 104 minutes. Rated R (for strong disturbing violence, and for language). Opens Friday at local theaters.
Updated: August 19, 2014 6:14AM
Government-sanctioned mayhem continues unabated in the follow-up to last year’s surprise hit “The Purge,” but the wickedly satiric sense of humor that made the original worth watching is nowhere to be found.
That’s a shame, because writer/director James DeMonaco created a classic action-exploitation concept when he came up with the Purge: a near-future American holiday making all crime legal for 12 hours, with murder strongly encouraged. It came with an edgy political subtext, namely that America’s ultra-conservative New Founding Fathers were using the Purge as a means to thin out the ranks of the poor. Hence the occasional flashes of scathing wit, last time, as upper-middle-class family man Ethan Hawke (who’d made a killing selling elaborate home-defense systems) fended off an attack by psycho-killing prep-school-kids while saying stuff like, “Things like this aren’t supposed to happen in our neighborhood.”
There was also plenty of grim, brutal violence, but at least DeMonaco toyed with some clever ironies while working his way through the standard-issue home-invasion thriller. In “The Purge: Anarchy,” unfortunately, grim and brutal is pretty much all we get.
One year after the previous Purge, reluctant hero the Sergeant (veteran player of tough guys Frank Grillo) is donning his bulletproof vest and climbing into his homemade armor-plated car and preparing to wreak some vengeance on someone who’s done him wrong. We know he’s hero material because he isn’t wearing ghoul makeup or a freaky mask, but also because he stops to save a mother and daughter (Carmen Ejogo and Zoë Soul) and a bickering young couple (Zach Gilford and Kiele Sanchez) and becomes their grudging and annoyed leader on a cross-town journey to safety.
It’s easy to understand the sarge’s annoyance. The people he has taken under his wing are all eye-roll-worthy, and his own super-competent combat skills are wasted on wasting a homicidal cavalcade of “Mad Max”-types on wheels, religious loonies, freakazoids in hoodies, yellow-toothed sexual predators and deranged rich folk who have their victims delivered like pizza. And it all goes down in an atmosphere of maximum bleakness, punctuated only by occasional outbursts of heavy emotion on screen or cheers from the audience when some bad guy or another gets riddled with bullets.
Especially the ultra-rich bad guys. There’s a revolutionary subplot in “Anarchy” featuring an armed uprising led by a pseudo-Marxist people’s hero named Carmelo (Michael K. Williams) that could come to the fore in another sequel, but let’s hope not. The guy actually wears a beret during his rants and nobody says a word about it — not a good sign.