Review: The Purge: Anarchy

The general consensus with The Purge back in 2013 was that social concept at the film’s core (citizens could take their murderous rage out in one law-free night) was impressive, but was squandered by tired home invasion thriller clichés. Fortunately for this higher budgeted sequel, The Purge: Anarchy, returning director James DeMonaco gives us the film we originally wanted to see – exploring the carnage on the streets on this twisted holiday in a pulpy grindhouse fashion.

Here we see, a young couple’s car break down as they travel home before the annual purge – leaving them stranded and hunted. They soon find themselves crossing paths with a mysterious stranger out for revenge (Frank Grillo) and a mother and daughter looking for safety.

The Purge: Anarchy strips away the confinement of the home-invasion film and throws us into the carnage and chaos happening on the streets. This sets the template for DeMonaco to splash the new cash in an array of impressively tense action scenes and explore the wider mythology behind this celebration of bloodshed. These darker themes definitely strike parallels with the likes of John Carpenter’s Escape From New York – both showcasing anarchy taking over the previously-tame urban landscape. Here DeMonaco crafts an atmosphere of grime and chaos with a dark, blood-soaked palette.

DeMonaco’s direction is tense and brooding. Scenes showcasing the young couple’s initial run-in with a warpainted gang (chilling horror imagery that taps into the animalistic hunger that drives the purge) lays the dread-filled groundwork for coming events. Similarly DeMonaco captures the uncomfortable strain between relationships on this night with domestic scenes feeling equally as dangerous as the carnage on the streets. Outside the domestic realm, the urban hunting ground has the pulpy grindhouse feel of classic exploitation fare where bullets fly in the dark streets and armoured trucks capture unsuspecting prey.

Whilst the first film just scratches the surface of the mythology of the purge, Anarchy digs beneath its grimy surface, capturing the sheer horror of the event in a realistic fashion. Perhaps the most chilling new concept is how DeMonaco captures the purge from the perspective of the rich: where the vulnerable are captured and auctioned off at fancy galas to the highest bidder to unleash their animalistic desires. This auction also sets up one of the stand-out action scenes of The Purge: Anarchy, which showcases Frank Grillo as one of the screen’s most impressive action stars.

Grillo is actually much of the driving force behind the success of the sequel’s new format. He convinces in the action scenes as the tough guy of few words, but also provides the film’s emotional backbone in the final few scenes. Grillo has the charisma of these classic Clint Eastwood and Kurt Russell action heroes – with the actor completely mesmerising and quietly charming here.

The Purge: Anarchy builds on the foundations of the first film to take the series to new heights. With an atmosphere of anarchy and chaos that evokes the grindhouse cinema of yesteryear, DeMonaco has crafted a thrilling piece of action cinema where Grillo excels as the charismatic lead.

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