The Purge: Anarchy review

What would it take to get you to kill? Money? A thirst for vengeance? Would knowing that you could get away with it be enough to push you over the edge?

The Purge: Anarchy bets heavily on that last option. The film revisits the imaginative near-future United States that writer/director James DeMonaco dreamed up for 2013’s home invasion flick, The Purge, but follows an entirely different set of characters. In an effort to cut down on crime and keep rising populations in check, the NFFA – New Founding Fathers of America – established the annual Purge, a 12-hour stretch of night during which all crime, up to and including heinous acts of murder and rape, is fair game.

The Purge was fairly criticized for squandering such an interesting high-concept pitch by setting its events in and around a single family trapped in their home. The film’s tantalizing glimpse of a nation that has processed and codified its sociopathic tendencies was little more than set dressing while the story zeroed in on the “plight” of a white, well-to-do family in the suburbs.

DeMonaco’s insane proposition of creating a better world through controlled violence doesn’t hold up under close scrutiny, but it sure creates a thrilling portrait.

Anarchy smartly goes bigger, but not without a tradeoff. While The Purge squandered its premise for a coherent story, Anarchy fleshes out the universe at the expense of the story.

The five characters at the heart of the film, all stuck outside on Purge night and thrown together by circumstances outside their control, are little more than flesh-and-blood cameras to show the world through. Character development is minimal for what amounts to cardboard cutouts that seem to exist for the sole purpose of peering at the various depravities that unfold.

There’s the tough-talking, gun-toting hardass (Frank Grillo) who’s out to “purge” (cleanse through killing, in the lexicon of the movie) for a very specific reason. There’s the projects-dwelling mother-and-daughter twosome (Carmen Ejogo and Zoe Soul) who dream of a better life. And there’s the bickering husband-and-wife (Zach Gilford and Kiele Sanchez) who are on the brink of a separation.

None of it matters. The 100-minute running time is dominated by the scenes of outrageous violence that these character stumble into. Whether it’s a gangland beating or a twisted one-percenter auction in which the wealthy bid on humans that they then hunt, Anarchy’s journey provides a window into the wider world and little more than that.

The most interesting character, a freedom fighter who sees the Purge as the poverty-culling event that it actually is (played by The Wire’s Michael K. Williams), only gets a handful of scenes. His push against the System initially holds some promise, but it ultimately exists only to justify an improbable “save-the-day” moment that occurs midway through the final act. The stars get just enough development to help a viewer follow their all-too-predictable arcs.

As with The Purge, it’s Anarchy’s everyone’s-a-sociopath take on violence that keeps things moving. These characters exist in a grim world, a place where, one night a year, everyone is permitted to live out their most violent fantasies. Here, the rich purchase the sick and the elderly so entire families can commit murder together from the safety of their protected estates. Armored, government-sponsored kill squads cleanse entire apartment projects. There’s no room for small children or the infirm. When you’re too poor to afford a walled compound, but not so penniless that you can’t buy a firearm, the choice is simple: purge or die.

DeMonaco’s insane proposition of creating a better world through controlled violence doesn’t hold up under close scrutiny, but it sure creates a thrilling portrait. The director’s reliance on jump-scares to keep the audience on edge is surprisingly effective. The Purge: Anarchy is fraught with problems, but it is at least exciting.

The first Purge took an original idea and built a story around it that didn’t do enough to examine the broader social implications of legally sanctioned violence. The Purge: Anarchy addresses the criticisms directed at its predecessor with a broadened scope, but in so doing it loses sight of the characters who are caught up in these events. DeMonaco’s grim, seemingly impossible vision of a near-future United States isn’t completely without merit, but Anarchy’s gauntlet of violent escapism is ultimately too aimless to matter to anyone other than actual sociopaths.

Movies & TV

Marvel’s streaming Loki series gets a plot summary and a showrunner

A Rick & Morty writer will oversee Marvel's Loki series for Disney Plus. Tom Hiddleston is expected to reprise his role for the show, while the series' premise offers a few hints as to how Loki might return from the dead.
Movies & TV

The best movies on Amazon Prime right now (February 2019)

Prime Video provides subscribers with access to a host of fantastic films, but sorting through the catalog can be an undertaking. Luckily, we've done the work for you. Here are the best movies on Amazon Prime Video right now.
Gaming

This list of PlayStation 4 exclusives puts its competitors to shame

The PlayStation 4's game library and incredible selection of exclusive games could make anyone with an Xbox One or Nintendo Switch think twice. Here's our list of the latest and greatest PS4 exclusives.
Gaming

Your PlayStation 4 game library isn't complete without these games

Looking for the best PS4 games out there? Out of the massive crop of titles available, we selected the best you should buy. No matter what your genre of choice may be, there's something here for you.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix, from 'Haunting of Hill House’ to ‘Norsemen’

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Home Theater

The best movies on Netflix in December, from 'Buster Scruggs’ to 'Roma'

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, witty humor, or anything else.
Business

Alita: Battle Angel’s big opening weekend leads weak holiday box office

New box-office champion Alita: Battle Angel outperformed expectations with its big premiere and positive reviews from critics, but Presidents' Day weekend is still off to a slow start.
Movies & TV

Stay inside this winter with the best shows on Hulu, including 'Legion'

It's often overwhelming to navigate Hulu's robust library of TV shows. To help, we put together a list of the best shows on Hulu, whether you're into frenetic cartoons, intelligent dramas, or anything in between.
Movies & TV

The best movies you’ll find on Hulu right now (February 2019)

From dramas to blockbusters, Hulu offers some great films to its subscribers. Check out the best movies on Hulu, whether you're into charming adventure tales or gruesome horror stories.
Movies & TV

The best new movie trailers: Yesterday, Tolkien, Triple Frontier, and more

Everyone loves a good trailer, but keeping up with what's new isn't easy. That's why we round up the best ones for you. This week, it's trailers for Yesterday, Tolkien, Aladdin, Frozen 2, and Triple Frontier.
Movies & TV

'Prime'-time TV: Here are the best shows on Amazon Prime right now

There's more to Amazon Prime than free two-day shipping, including access to a number of phenomenal shows at no extra cost. To make the sifting easier, here are our favorite shows currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
Movies & TV

Best new shows and movies to stream: Deadpool 2, The Umbrella Academy, and more

Need something to watch this weekend? Check out our list of the best new shows and movies to stream right now. On the list this week: Deadpool 2, The Umbrella Academy, Lorena, and more.
Movies & TV

How Avengers: Infinity War’s Oscar-nominated VFX team made Thanos a movie star

The purple-skinned Thanos proved to be a breakout character in Avengers: Infinity War, thanks to the work of actor Josh Brolin and visual effects studios Digital Domain and Weta. Here's how they brought him to life and earned the film an…
Deals

FA Cup: Watch Chelsea vs. Manchester United with ESPN Plus 7-day free trial

Chelsea and Manchester United are facing off in an exciting FA Cup match, with the fifth round - a tie match - slated for Monday. Die-hard fans of English football can stream the game anywhere at any time with ESPN Plus, and here's how to…