When characters talk about how they’re going to spend their Purge the immediate reaction is always the same. “Well, I think I’ll kill so-and-so, they’ve really got it coming…”, or “There are a few people I could do without in my life, so be careful around me!” All crime is legal for twelve hours and all that these characters consider is who to kill; no theft or looting, defacing or destruction, it’s just murder and all those characters just accept that and we as an audience just accept it. We’re fickle, primal beings. Crime generally takes some degree of forethought but murder…well, murder comes to us all real easy.
One year after the events of The Purge crime is still down and unemployment stays at a record low. An anti-Purge resistance have been surfacing online and hacking into television broadcasts. As the annual Purge of 2023 begins, five strangers find themselves drawn together in downtown Los Angeles in a desperate fight for survival as all crime becomes legal for one night.
The biggest problem with the original The Purge was that its high concept premise was severely limited by the home invasion staging that set up the story. Its social commentary was subdued and forced as a result and your enjoyment was only ever going to be measured by your appreciation for the primary conceit, however mishandled that premise might have been. The Purge: Anarchy immediately rectifies all those mistakes by giving us a more diverse cast of characters to follow in an environment that can take advantage of its crazy setting: If you’re going to centre your movie on a period of time where all bets are off you’d damn well better back that sentiment up and Anarchy delivers in spades. As a curious aside, Anarchy arguably strengthens the original Purge, acting as a supplement showing the impoverished side of the culling, with the first movie showing the dream of the upper-middle class people whom the Purge is intended to protect collapsing in on itself horribly. If ever two movies were made out of order, it’s these.
Moving this years Purge to an urban environment has a number of advantages. Action now has the gravitas of urban warfare and the wide open spaces allow for more engaging depictions of horrible, horrible violence. With an entire city under the spell of ultimate freedom, Anarchy manages to pack real horrifying tension through much of the film, often evoking the best aspects of other urban survival thrillers such as Cloverfield or The Warriors. And because Anarchy doesn’t tie all the action to one location, the plot is allowed to breathe and take weird turns when it benefits the flow with the commentary retaining its distinct message but evolving through the narrative with much more subtlety.
Both in terms of presentation and characters, Anarchy is the working man’s Purge film. None of the leading quintet come off as disgustingly wealthy as the lead Sandin family from the first Purge and as a result Anarchy ultimately comes across as a much more hopeful experience than its predecessor, somewhat at odds with its disturbing premise. That said, if the events on show suggest anything about the state of affairs to come it’s unlikely there’ll be much in the way of sunshine and puppies in the third Purge outing.
We’re all real quick to murder according to the Purge but under what context? Some killing is sick, some makes sense, some is necessary but in this future-world all is permitted and all are capable. If the next Purge is as much of an improvement on Anarchy as Anarchy is on the first, all thoughts of murder aside? It’ll be to die for.
Bigger, better, smarter. The first Purge had its detractors but in any case this sequel of survival is well worth a chance in its own right.
The Purge: Anarchy is Out Now in Wide Release.