Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Purge: Anarchy

THE PURGE: ANARCHY (James DeMonaco, 2014)

In THE PURGE: ANARCHY America prepares for the sixth annual event in which virtually all crime, including murder, is legal for a twelve-hour period. The New Founding Fathers credit the Purge as a release valve for bringing unemployment below five percent and improving the country, but those who do not wish to participate and are unable to afford sufficient protection spend 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. once a year hoping to survive.

Married couple on the rocks Shane and Liz (Zach Gilford and Kiele Sanchez) face more pressing problems when their car breaks down as the countdown to the start of the Purge approaches. Eva Sanchez (Carmen Ejogo) wishes for a quiet night holed up in her apartment with her daughter Cali (Zoë Soul) and father (John Beasley), but she and Cali are forced into the street when armed men come to take them away. Sergeant (Frank Grillo) intends to use this night of sanctioned killing to get his revenge on the man responsible for his son’s death.

When Sergeant sees Eva and Cali in danger, he decides to come to their rescue. He returns to his car to find Shane and Liz cowering inside. Sergeant doesn’t want to be the protector of four strangers, but with gunfire making his car nonfunctional, he strikes a temporary bargain with them. He will take them to shelter at Eva’s friend’s home as long as she convinces her friend to give Sergeant her car.

THE PURGE: ANARCHY opens up the action more than its predecessor, which took place almost entirely in a single home under attack, yet the sequel is plagued by similar problems in THE PURGE. This thriller lacks suspense and horror, except for the occasional shocking image. Writer-director James DeMonaco establishes a disturbing premise in these films but fails to generate much tension from moment to moment. It’s a strange shortcoming in a film universe in which no one and nowhere is potentially safe.

Built on a federal observance that breeds class warfare, THE PURGE: ANARCHY touches a nerve yet never flirts with getting as dark as the circumstances could present. In words and deeds SNOWPIERCER revealed the actions taken in horrid living conditions while THE PURGE: ANARCHY tends to frame an ironic tableau and move along before things get too unsettling. The nihilistic fury running through THE PURGE: ANARCHY feels particular to the time yet is kept at arm’s length lest it rile up anyone who might latch onto a radical idea or those who would denounce it as artistically irresponsible.

DeMonaco questions how leaders pit the have-nots against each other and how conditions allow the wealthy, depicted here just short of looking like the facially distorted suburbanites in Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun” video, to exploit the disadvantaged. While THE PURGE: ANARCHY hints at the delicate fabric holding society together, it doesn’t delve deeper into issues regarding the vulnerability of women and the need for constant politeness when causing offense can be answered with permissible vengeance. Perhaps THE PURGE: ANARCHY would be more potent if it didn’t seem like little more than late night freshman dorm-level philosophizing applied to a middling genre picture. It’s probably for the best that DeMonaco doesn’t go into great detail about the Purge because the whole thing starts to crumble upon closer inspection. THE PURGE: ANARCHY’s illicit rush is as fleeting as its ideas.

Grade: C

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