[pullquote cite=”” type=”left, right”][amazon text=Amazon&template=carousel&chan=That Film Guy&asin=B00CI39NHS][/pullquote] The Purge is an odd beast. It was a film that got lambasted by critics and audiences alike, and yet still made about 30x its budget. Plenty of films do this, mind, this isn’t a new thing, but there’s the kind of bad that gets popular, and there’s the kind of bad that doesn’t. By all concepts of logic, The Purge should have failed.
It was a relatively boring home-invasion flick that had a semi-interesting premise that fell apart the moment you thought about it for more than five seconds, that could have (and probably should have) gone direct-to-DVD if not for the star power of Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey. Still, because of its odd success, a sequel has now been churned out, and this time they did take full advantage of the premise and set you right in the middle of it. However, this did not make the series any more credible.
On the night of the annual Purge, a government event in which all crime is legal for one 12 hour period, we follow three sets of protagonists. We have Shane (Zach Gilford) and Liz (Kiele Sanchez), who are probably the most boring out of them, as the only reason they’re out in the Purge is because their car conveniently broke down. We also have Leo (Frank Grillo), a cop who goes out on the street to take revenge for the death of his son. Rounding off the group we have Eva (Carmen Ejogo) and Cali (Zoe Soul), a mother and daughter who were being kidnapped by some military force who wear gasmasks for absolutely no reason, but were saved by Leo. These three groups of people run into each other and now have to work together to survive the Purge.
Before I get onto the film itself, I must point out one very irritating thing about this film: the title. I’m sorry…anarchy? Of all the things to choose as your subtitle, you picked anarchy? I really hope whoever picked that title knows what anarchy actually means; a system of society that functions without a government. The Purge is an event set up and run by the government. I don’t know whether it was supposed to be ironic or sarcastic, but something tells me not. You can’t have anarchy run by the government, that makes no sense. You may be thinking of chaos; in fact, I’d say The Purge: Chaos is a much better title. Anyway, moving on.
I will give The Purge: Anarchy one point in its favour: its ambitious. It clearly wants to do something with its premise that it didn’t do, for whatever reason, last time around. However, that’s where the positives end, as The Purge: Anarchy is one of the most egregiously awful disasters to some out at least in 2014, if not for a while longer. It’s rather morbidly fascinating to watch, as throughout its 100 minute running time it manages to get everything it could possibly get wrong, well, wrong.
As a horror film, it doesn’t work, as the scares are limited to jump scares that only come up every once in a while with no real build up, not to mention it’s set in a large, open space with a large group of people, which kind of goes against most techniques of horror. As a social commentary, it doesn’t work, as its main thrust seems to be that ‘the rich are killing the poor to keep them in check’, though we barely see that until the last 15 minutes. Mostly its the poor killing the poor. It’s muddled and confused and doesn’t know what it’s doing, so much so that the social commentary gets dropped several times so we can have more drawn out shooting galleries.
And most of all, it fails simply as a story. Villains come and go, sometimes operating all at once, and often get clumsy and rushed resolutions to make way for another villainous presence. The rebels that are opposing the Purge don’t affect the plot at all until the come in at the end for an insulting dues ex machina resolution. Character motivations are dropped and re-established seemingly at random, and the plot just has no idea where its going, having to contrive some form of drama where everything seems like it’s finally worked out.