Last year’s “The Purge” was met with mixed reception, with some appreciating the film’s depiction of class warfare gone mad and others feeling its satire was a thin and insubstantial set up for a rote home-invasion thriller payoff. Still, the film killed at the box office ($89 million on a $3 million budget), and audiences who came for carnage came away shaken rather than thrilled, giving the film a “C” CinemaScore, so that might be a sign that director James DeMonaco did something right.
Now, DeMonaco has released a sequel, “The Purge: Anarchy,” which expands on the original’s scope, using the purge as a set-up for a John Carpenter-esque thriller, complete with a heavier emphasis on allegory. Early reviews are about as mixed as they were for the first, with some calling the film an improvement over the original (Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, who gave the original film a C to this one’s B-) and others calling it the same kind of stupid (Andrew Lapin of The Dissolve). One near-constant, however, is praise for Frank Grillo’s turn as a man bent on revenge on the man who killed his son.
Because the film showcases lower income characters, of course it’s going to veer into rich-eat-the-poor territory. The disappointment is that is shows its hand so early, and so sloppily, that the rest of the film is compromised by crushing inevitability. “The Purge: Anarchy” depicts class warfare as a way of life, but it also delights in creating wealthy villains who have no need to hide behind the masks of propriety and societal expectations. On paper, this approach seems scarier, the idea that those that who approve of the power of the government and the subjugation of minorities and the lower class are secretly insidious killers, sociopaths who fist-bump after a slaying. But the characterizations are completely divorced from reality, all cartoonish old hens and white-haired devils with plastic smiles and banal evil schemes. Read more.
Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, The A.V. Club
Matt Donato, We Got This Covered
Grillo embodies a tactical bruiser with some badass gear, playing a man who needs few words to get his point across. Without making his mission too mysterious, Grillo’s path to vengeance isn’t exactly groundbreaking, but the actor’s stoic nature lends more of an action-hero feel one might find in early Mel Gibson or Charles Bronson films. Read more.
Jeremy Lebens, We Got This Covered
Watching Grillo take what could have been another cookie-cutter character and completely change it into his own is both exciting and bad ass on so many levels. Grillo’s got the looks and the acting chops to sell the character, but also make you question if what he is doing is right or wrong, even given the evening’s circumstances. Read more.
Tim Grierson, Screen Daily
Grillo is a commanding onscreen presence, which is critical since he’s playing a stereotypically larger-than-life everyman protector. Grillo has the physicality and no-nonsense demeanor for the role, but his refusal to push into camp gives this genre film-cum-political parable a much-needed grounded, emotional centre. Read more.
Ed Gonzalez, Slant Magazine
DeMonaco may at times overcompensate for the “The Purge’s” flaws by doubly, sometimes triply, underlining the story’s governing theme of social power and how it’s exchanged, but the rage and lucidity of these ideas resonate in ways that the filmmaker’s workmanlike images, excepting the chilling vision of a burning bus silently darting across the frame in the background of one shot, do not. Read more.
Guy Lodge, Variety
The notion that even the most irresponsibly right-wing American government would sanction an annual bout of mass public carnage is so patently absurd, particularly without any surrounding dystopian context in the “Hunger Games” vein, that “Anarchy” seems unlikely to sound a chord of genuine alarm in most viewers. Likewise, the intended moral debates set up by this nightmare scenario (which here include the eye-for-an-eye vigilantism of a grieving parent) seem similarly facile in a narrative built on such distant hypotheticals. Read more.
Eric Kohn, Indiewire
At its worst, “The Purge: Anarchy” stumbles through a vignette-like structure involving numerous shadowy gunfights and underwhelming showdowns, with the badass Sergeant leading the charge every step of the way. But the movie’s potential blossoms whenever it toys with the allegorical ingredients head-on. DeMonaco’s script plays like a devious Brothers Grimm tale told through the filter of Occupy Wall Street. Read more.
Andrew Lapin, The Dissolve
Because some will insist otherwise, it needs to be emphasized again for the record that “The Purge: Anarchy” is a tremendously stupid film. The script is filled with unnecessary characters, the story spends forever building to payoffs that sputter and die, and the hate-the-rich angle is so blunt that Occupy Wall Street would cry for more subtlety. But there’s an almost-camp quality to how DeMonaco takes this stupidity to greater heights, building a complex mythology around the plot like a giant moat around a pillow fort. Read more.