No matter how it sounds, the new Purge movie is not an infomercial for a high-fiber cleansing diet – although you may feel an urgent need to detoxify after you’ve seen it. The Purge: Anarchy, or Purge 2 if you will, is the second movie in this “franchise.” Both are based on a motif lifted directly from a Star Trek episode called Return of the Archons, which made its TV debut in 1967. Hollywood is sooo creative, dontcha think? In the dystopian near future (2023) of Purge 2, the US is controlled by rich white people. See, I told you that Hollywood is creative. Anyway, here’s what passes for a plot . . .
Under federal law, once a year everybody in the country is able to murder, rape, burn, pillage, litter and toss their recyclables into the garbage with complete immunity. It’s just like your average weekend in Chicago! All essential services, such as police, fire, EMS and alternate side of the street parking, are suspended — just like Detroit! So, people are on their own. Either they lock their doors, shutter their windows and try to ride out the Purge, or they tool up, go out and Purge by killing everybody they can. Mountains of dead people ensue.
Hey, Purging isn’t as bad as it seems. As a result of all this government-approved thinning of the herd, unemployment is under 5 percent, almost nobody lives below the poverty line and homeless people are a dying breed – since nobody can armor-plate a cardboard refrigerator box. Everybody has beaucoup firepower, which must be good for the firearms manufacturers.
But if making guns is good business, being black or brown is very bad business during hell night. A lot of people of color get killed, and The Symbionese Liberation Army (or whatever they are calling themselves in 2023) doesn’t like it. On the other hand, evil white people are doing so well that they can actually indulge their pent-up taste for hacking terminally-ill black people to death with machetes without fear of repercussion, after the payment of a suitable, negotiated fee.
In this half-assed morality play, five B-movie actors are caught out and about when they should be safely at home doing a few lines or playing Monopoly – a perfect choice since your average game usually lasts as long as Purge night. Four of the non-merry band are non-Purgers. They include a young, divorcing couple whose car broke down, and Eva and Cali Sanchez, a mom and daughter whose house broke down. The four are on the streets running for their lives through no fault of their own. The last man, named Leo, has a deep, dark reason for being out, and he’s packing. Heavily. He has a New York Times “arsenal” on him, and he knows how to use it.
Frank Grillo plays Leo, and he’s pretty good, too. While nobody connected with this disaster movie will be walking home with a Golden Globe (unless they buy one) all the acting is solid from top to bottom. John Beasley as the terminally-ill future hamburger is especially effective in an all-too-brief performance. Then again, nobody here is performing King Lear.
Back to Grillo. His bug-out bag contains, at one time or another, his fave rave AKMSU, a Heckler & Koch USP .45 as his sidearm of choice, a Kahr K9, a Colt Python and sweet little H&K MP5A3. Not much ammo, though, since he never seems to be able to reload.
Grillo needs his guns like Neo did when tried to break Morpheus out of the clutches of Agent Smith. Grillo is up against hundreds of maniacs armed with a Blaser R93, a couple of M2 Flamethrowers, at least three Dillon Aero M134 Miniguns, a couple of vehicle-mounted M240Bs, many MP5ks, AKs, M16s and pump shotguns, more KRISS Vectors than anyone has ever seen outside of the KRISS factory, and a lone Beretta 92FS that’s laying around just for giggles. There’s even a super-special mystery guest appearance by a lonely Kel-Tec KSG, making it one of the few KSGs to appear in the wild since the initial product announcement and the only one that actually works.
While the guns kick ass, the script by director James DeMonaco packs all the verve, panache and subtlety expected from an Adult Education creative writing class. Some of the movie’s visual themes seem to be derived from Walter Hill’s cult classic The Warriors and the story is lifted from the aforementioned Star Trek episode as well as John Carpenter’s They Live (without the sci-fi context), with a liberal dollop of The Most Dangerous Game to season a tasteless stew. And the dialog! Frankly, I can’t think of a single memorable line in Purge 2. In fact, I can’t think of a single line from Purge 2, memorable or otherwise.
Once the initial buildup of suspense is complete, Director DeMonaco keeps the action going. But the slow run-up to the fighting was enough to make me want to Purge. Admittedly, in most respects Purge 2 is better than DeMonaco’s Purge 1, but that’s like saying that Porky’s was better than Porky’s 2. Purge 1 set the bar so low that a pregnant copperhead could slither over it without losing a scale.
Still, despite the lack of data points, DeMonaco seems to be getting better and better as a director as he goes from Purge to Purge. At this rate, DeMonaco will be right up there with Ridley Scott by the time he directs The Purge 147.
All things considered, The Purge: Anarchy is probably the most anti-capitalist movie I’ve seen since Robocop. Because of the serious nature of Purge 2 it’s far more vicious. It’s also the most racially inflammatory movie I can recall.
In all likelihood, Purge 2 was supposed to be the most anti-gun film since Bowling for Columbine. There’s a bunch of blather about “the New Founding Fathers” that was supposedly designed to diss the Tea Party. Not seeing it. RF reckons the chief white woman baddie bears a remarkable resemblance to Hillary Clinton. I’m not seeing that either, which is just as well.
In the effort to demonize guns, DeMonaco glamorized them. In the effort to demonize the government, DeMonaco was more successful. His mostly brainless ballistic binge-and-purge production spreads the gospel of small government and big firepower. Amen.
Model: The Purge: Anarchy
Length: 103 minutes
Finish: Sappy and out of place
Price: A mere $9 million, which the film earned back in one night. It’s pulled in about $30 million to date, so we’ll be seeing more of this nonsense in the dystopian real future.
RATINGS (out of five bullets):
Style * * *
The script is lifeless and humorless. What passes for dialog is mostly a way to fill time between fights. The visuals were good. The guns and the gun fighting scenes were very good. The actors were extremely competent.
Reliability * *
Everything is totally predictable, except for the ending that tried to be uplifting. It was less predictable, which is the best thing that can be said about it.
OVERALL * *
It’s a message film disguised as an action-adventure movie. If you like the message, you’ll like the movie. I didn’t like either.