A lot of the fun of watching both this and the first “Purge” movie is pondering just how the Purge wouldn’t work. While writing notes for this, I went and looked at my review of the first one, and not only did I accurately predict the plot of “Anarchy”, I’d already thought of most of the issues then, so I’ll just rewrite that bit. Can you plagiarise yourself?
The Purge is still going strong, the one night a year where America’s new rulers, The New Founding Fathers, decree all crime is legal, so everyone can apparently purge themselves. Three groups come together – a man looking for the driver who killed his son; a mother and daughter escaping from “soldiers” kidnapping everyone in their building; and a young couple, about to separate in a very mature way, whose car breaks down halfway home. On the streets are two main sources of danger – a group of masked thugs who seem to have targeted the young couple; and a huge truck that holds a ton of computer equipment and one large minigun.
Depth is added by Michael Kenneth Williams (aka Omar from “The Wire”) as revolutionary Carmelo, standing up to the frankly ludicrous system; and the rituals that have sprung up round the Purge with the rich treating it as a sport. This adds a layer to the original movie, which really needed it, and any doubt that may have existed in the original about the political motivation of the New Founding Fathers is gone. The entire system is a far right fantasy, where death squads either kill the poor or send them to groups of rich people to hunt in special arenas.
I think it’s fair to say that the writer/director is more bothered about the world and the broad strokes than he is the characters. The young couple do absolutely nothing, other than complain, and the mother / daughter combo, while a bit better, one gets the feeling the camera discovered them by accident rather than writing a film about more interesting characters.
My main problem with it, even though this movie has improved in leaps and bounds from its predecessor, is how fundamentally broken the filmmakers’ idea of the future is, despite it being a fairly high-concept movie. I’m not the smartest guy, but a hundred problems popped into my head as I was watching it, such as the lack of psychological problems from killing someone. The reason we don’t murder people from dawn to dusk is not because of the laws against it, but because, by and large, we don’t want to. When you start thinking of violence as a solution to your problems on one day, you’re more likely to think it’s a solution on every other day – take that street gang, for instance. There is absolutely no chance in hell they’re not committing crimes the other 364 days a year (even if the film tells us crime rates are at an all-time low).
There’s other issues. Fire, for example. If there’s no fire service for the 12 hours of the Purge, then I’m thinking one or two pyromaniacs could go hog wild in that time (the couple of puffs of smoke we see at the end would be a raging inferno). Cities would burn to the ground. Religious fundamentalists might decide to sabotage the water supply to a place like Las Vegas to get rid of the scum there, and cause billions of dollars worth of damage. Women who went into labour at the beginning of the Purge might suffer severe problems. Is there insurance in this world? I would think that professional criminals would just loot the hell out of everything they could find and export it or sell it the next day, which would absolutely destroy the economy. Bank managers would just rob the heck out of their own banks. What about living in the same building as the guy who raped you the night before, and not being able to do anything about it? There would be race wars. And so on, and so forth.
The filmmakers clearly listened to criticism of part 1, because they answer some of the more obvious problems, or at least try. The ending scene, while on first glance looking a bit unlikely, is, if you ponder on motivations, quite powerful. It shows you quite a lot of different groups, different ways of organising, and does it well. Okay, it feels like the middle section of a longer story (which it is, if the sequel is happening) but it’s a nice example of a sequel which improves on what came before.
Rating: thumbs in the middle