The first “Purge” film turned a lot of heads when it came out a little more than a year ago — at least, before it actually came out. The premise was ambitious and seemed very promising, but the film didn’t live up to it, preferring to focus instead on a specific household trying to survive more than the annual “purge” itself.
This time, the sequel, “The Purge: Anarchy,” is more committed to the theme that drew attention to its predecessor. But does that make this new take worth watching?
The word “sequel” isn’t actually accurate this time around, as “Anarchy” follows a completely new cast of characters around a different city. The only thing it shares in common with the first film, and all one needs to know going in, is this: A new American regime known as the New Founding Fathers has implemented an annual “Purge” holiday, where for 12 hours, all crime is legal. There are limits as to who and what can be attacked or used (certain weapons and politicians are off limits), but other than that, citizens can murder, rape and pillage away.
The first film was bogged down by a poorly-acted family, whereas “Anarchy” follows our heroes around a lively, purge-driven city. While the protagonists still aren’t very well-written or acted, this allows the film to show off more of the city, allowing audiences to see more of how the Purge affects America. The film’s focus is where it should be this time: on the Purge itself. In turn, the film is a lot more interesting than the first.
However, this exposes one of the film’s biggest weaknesses. “Anarchy” is even more ham-handed in its preaching about how the rich dominate the poor, and how the United States has become even more driven by money, and about how the poor should rise up — it’s like listening to a teenager who’s just discovered the concept of communism for the first time. It’s a film that likes to pretend it’s very smart without actually being smart at all.
It should also go without saying that this film was intentionally made to make certain people with certain political beliefs very uncomfortable, so keep that in mind. “Anarchy” most certainly is not for everyone.
While it is a much stronger film than the original “Purge,” that strength also exposes a lot of issues with the franchise’s concept. There’s an interesting film in here somewhere, but it’s buried beneath boring and pretentious writing. Fans of the first will enjoy it, but it’s worth a skip for anyone else.