Monday, July 21, 2014

The Purge: Anarchy

Last year, there was an original film that I had been looking forward to seeing when they first teased us with trailers and television spots.  It seemed like a good concept and gave us some eerie visuals while presenting a simple, yet frightening, story set-up.  2013's The Purge, a futuristic tale, set around 2022, has the USA's government, the "New Founding Fathers of America" allowing a nationwide purge where any criminal activity is legal for a 12-hour period.  So anyone, anywhere, can murder, rape, steal, etc., with no repercussions.  The film, starring Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey was good, but a bit on the claustrophobic side, with the action (what there was of it) staying inside their home and never leaving to see what was going on outside.  This year's sequel, The Purge: Anarchy, corrects that problem and goes full bore with some exciting visuals and formidable situations that our protagonists go through.

The film mainly centers around a man named Leo (Frank Grillo) as he's shown at home, getting some firearms together, shortly before the annual purge is about to start.  As he looks upon a photograph of himself and a young buy who we assume is his son that died, we see he's purposely going out into the city to
do some purging on whoever's responsible (we assume).  As the purge begins, Leo drives out into the city's downtown area and grudgingly saves the lives of a mother and daughter, Eva and Cali (Carmen Ejogo and ZoĆ« Soul), who were about to be seized by some men in armor as they were being forcibly led into a big truck.  Before getting away from the scene, another couple who had broken down in their car not far from the downtown area, Shane and Liz (Zach Gilford and Kiele Sanchez), end up with Leo as well.  He's now faced with helping these people to safety as he wants to finish what he came out to start...to purge on the one who wronged him.

I must say that this sequel surpasses the first film threefold.  Remembering what I felt was wrong with the original was fully corrected here in this sequel.  Don't get me wrong, the first film was a whole different subgenre as it was more of a home invasion type of story, whereas this sequel was something different all together.  You can't really call it an action movie, although there are some shoot-outs and some car chase scenes, and it's really not a horror movie per se.  I guess the best category I can give this film is a dark dystopian thriller.

Frank Grillo has had bit parts in his career, but I remember most of them in some good movies.  He played the asshole-turn-good-guy in The Grey, had a pretty good part in the Mother's Day remake, and was pretty good as Brock Rumlow/Crossbones in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.  But in The Purge: Anarchy, he is awesome as the title character of Leo.  You get a sense that he's a Frank Castle/Punisher type of man in this film as he had lost a family member to someone's wrong-doing and he's just throwing himself out into hell in order to get revenge.  As the first part of the film goes along, you think he might as well be the Punisher as he's dressed in black, has some awesome firepower, and definitely has some defensive and offensive skills.  And that's what the first film needed—someone to cheer for.  In the original, everyone sort of waited around, trying to stay safe in the house, while Leo went out and kicked some ass in this sequel.  Grillo took this part and made it his own.

In the first film, we only get a taste of what went on outside of the home, seeing news footage that the main
characters are watching while they're staying safe behind their secured doors and windows.  But in this sequel, we, the audience, are brought out into the open, seeing every terrible crime happen in front of our faces.  We feel the tension and fear the main characters are feeling as they try to dodge the purgers and make their way to safety.  Every situation the characters get themselves into, whether it's meant to be in a safe place or out on the streets, we just know something bad's about to happen and it keeps us on the edge of our seats.

Usually I see something in a film that I can hone in on and complain about, but not with The Purge: Anarchy.  From start to finish, I loved this film and thought to myself that I'll certainly buy this one on home media.  I never felt that way about the first one and, as it stands, I never bought the Blu-Ray of that one.  However, seeing that this sequel doesn't have the number 2 in it, you can treat this as a stand-alone film.  With that said, in case you wondered to yourself if you'd needed to watch the first one before watching this one, the answer is no.  You get enough info about what the purge is just by seeing the movie trailers, let alone the beginning of the film, so you really don't need to sit through the Ethan Hawke starrer.

With the original, you don't get much of what the purge is about, only that it's a government sanctioned event to rid the country of some of the low-lifes that plague our cities and neighborhoods.  In the sequel, the reasoning goes a bit further and has big political and social rationale involved.  The first film touched on it a bit, but not as much as it does here.

Although the plot centers around Leo and his quest to get revenge, there are also two other stories woven around his plight.  The two women who he saves from certain death were actually going through the turmoil of losing a close part of their family, while Shane and Liz were on their way to getting separated.  Now, the couple probably could've been left out of the story altogether, but the family member Eva and Cali lost had a lot to do with the purge and it's a pretty sickening look into the depravity of it.

Director and writer James DeMonaco definitely does it right this time, as he gives us more to see and understand.  As I'd said, in the first one, he kept the story isolated and from the point-of-view of characters hiding from the terrible goings-on outside of their safety zone.  So the natural progression of this story is to stick us right in the middle of it, seeing the worst of what happens.

Anyway, my final "bit" on The Purge: Anarchy?

A very good film, improving on the original wholeheartedly and with gusto.  Frank Grillo positively has the acting chops for the leading man and I'm glad he finally has a film he front-runs.  All characters in this sequel are interesting and you really care about what happens to them, because you can't help but put yourself in their position.  The sequel takes the great idea from the original and runs with it, full throttle.  If you're a sucker for thrillers, this film should not be missed.

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1 comment:

Ray Wisneski said...

I am looking forward to seeing this one when it comes out on DVD. I typically have a hit list of movies that I "must see" in the theater and although this one did not make the list it did catch my eye.

So the first movie takes a rather absurd notion and creates a unique world to develop stories in. For the purge that concept is a world where there is no crime, except for the one day a year that it is legal. Absurd, but in faction you sometimes have to suspend belief long enough to see how it plays out, and the first movie it plays out very well.

I was pleased to read your review and see that they are taking the Purge in a new direction. Not only is it a stand alone movie, but it growing the shared history of the original movie and opening up avenues for other story arcs to spring forth from it.

We don't need to see the same characters movie to movie as we have already seen experienced their struggle, although it would be cool to perhaps have cameos down the line (maybe we will see Lena Headey helping out someone in need in a future movie - heck maybe that happened in this film?).

Looking forward to watching it and maybe posting some updated comments on my thoughts at that time.