For 12 hours, anything goes. James DeMonaco’s 2013 film The Purge was met with a mixed reaction from critics. I for one enjoyed it, not at least for its fantastic finale where essentially murder was on the cards because Ethan Hawke built an extension to his house. Go figure, right? Leaving that aside, it is an interesting concept: for a few hours each year, it is no holds barred. A little like a Grand Theft Auto-esque killing spree taken up a notch. Anarchy, however, is bigger, bolder and a lot less subtle than the first film, and despite its absurdities, stereotypes and clichés, as a spectacle, it is still very watchable.
Just to clarify, this is set about 20 years in the future where America – under new leadership – have created a yearly purge to cleanse people’s souls. Basically, since this was introduced the country is pretty awesome again; unemployment is down, crime is virtually non-existent and everyone, it appears, loves each other. As the name of this sequel suggests, however, not everyone is in agreeance with this legalised killing spree.
Three interlinking stories – the bickering couple (Shane and Liz), the mother-daughter combo (Eva and Cali), and the vengeance seeking mourning father (Sergeant) – come together as we hit the streets of the US and witness the annual purge at its heart. Frank Grillo’s ex-army man, Sergeant, leads the group as he rescues Eva (Carmen Ejogo) and her loud-mouth daughter, Cali (Zoë Soul), from some purging maniacs, whilst Shane (Zach Gilford) and Liz (Kiele Snachez) join the threesome as they negotiate their way through the blood-stained streets in order to survive of the night. Grillo did his best Bruce Willis impression – saving the day and does not give a crap – whilst the other four cry, whimper and, well, are just generally very annoying.
Highly unoriginal characters are mixed together with an idea – unrealistic, stupid, but interesting – that raises interesting questions about not just America, but humanity itself. Yeah, that is right, it gets deep! Why should humans have the power to play God? Is there other ways we can rid society of evil? Who do all purgers do things in slow motion? So many questions, so little time.
Its predictability is its downfall. The ending punches you in the face the moment you take your seat, in what is a strange – and somewhat uncomfortable – nod in the direction of 1960’s and 70’s US social movements. The film is at its best – much like The Purge – when it concentrates on the why, and not the how. What are the true motivations behind their actions? Last year’s film had a creepy edge to proceedings in small, but appreciative doses. Anarchy had moments of it, but needed more given its larger scope. There is a lot to dislike, but there is still something there – questions, ideas and concepts – that still make this interesting viewing.