Dir. James DeMonaco (2014)
One year after the events in the original film, three groups are stranded on the streets and must try to survive the yearly violence.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
In a film that might as well be called The Purge: The Other Half, the second movie in the Purge franchise is a discussion on how a social program like this would affect people who don’t live in massive mansions in the rich part of town. Unsurprisingly, these are the people who would be most affected if events like the annual Purge were real, as we learn in the original film (and, of course, from real life) that the wealthy view the poor as beneath them and unworthy of life and resources. While the social commentary has been appropriate since The New Deal, in the halcyon days of 2014 it was easy to dismiss ideas like the Purge as dystopian and insane. Now… not so much.
Featuring 100% more Zach Gilford (Midnight Mass) than the original film, Anarchy tells the story of three groups of people that are trying desperately to survive the marauding gangs who are anxious to get their Purge on. One group, couple Shane (Gilford) and Liz (Kiele Sanchez), are stranded downtown when someone cuts one of the lines underneath their car. Eva is a young mother who discovers that her father (John Beasley) has sold himself as a victim for a wealthy family, hoping to lift his family out of poverty. Unfortunately, his sacrifice will be in vain because his family is kidnapped by an armed assault team to be the part of someone’s “personal Purge.” The third “group” is a dude who is armed to the teeth with revenge on his mind, a Purge participant in name only who seeks to even the score against people who have wronged him but finds himself the savior of the first two groups.
The Purge: Anarchy delves deeper into the origins of the Purge and how its role in society functions. We learn that the New Founding Fathers of America do what they have to do to make the violence-fest as damaging to the poor and subsequently as helpful to the economy as possible. By eliminating the underemployed, they can create more jobs for the people who survive the long night, spurring the economy and raising their statistics. This is an unfortunate mirror held up to our society, where 13/52 is chanted in the streets as white supremacists seek to blame POC for all that ills society in reference to the outdated statistic that African Americans commit 52% of the crime despite being just 13% of the population. The ignorance of societal causation among the general public brings us closer to feeling like we’re smack in the middle of the Purge franchise as we seek to punish those we deem responsible rather than fix any issues that may actually be to blame.
The reality is that the Purge is actually happening and we just don’t know it. Call it a Slow Purge, where society endangers the poor through inadequate access to healthcare, a dearth in living-wage jobs, or the lack of competent and unbiased policing. A long history of racial injustice, economic bias, and political polarization has radicalized both halves of society, creating a world where your opinion is never completely safe to give and freedom to exist could be compromised at any moment. Combine these ever-present factors with pandemic misinformation that disproportionately target the under-educated and minorities and we can easily make the argument that the events of these films are not too far off from reality.
But enough about all the really important stuff! The Purge: Anarchy is a really interesting take on societal inequality and government malfeasance, though it certainly drags at times and lacks some linear coherency to keep its audience’s interest. It’s got some fantastic scenes, and the acting is good enough throughout. It’s not as complete of a film as The Purge, but it explores the real-world implications of the idea and helps to show its possible impact on the general citizenry. It’s a bit of diminishing return, but it’s still hugely entertaining and it has a message that is vitally important to society, albeit ham-handedly delivered at times. It’s absolutely worth a watch, helping to flesh out the entertaining world that the previous film built.
Who this movie is for: Social horror fans, Purge fans, The 99%
Bottom line: Expanding the world of The Purge beyond the gates of the rich, The Purge: Anarchy deals with survival on the streets when the rich and powerful have created a world that endangers your life. It’s a fascinating concept, though not always purposefully delivered. It’s absolutely worth a watch for fans of the series, and it’s an intriguing storyline that helps to tell the story that everyone was left wanting after the original. The law of diminishing returns dictated that it wasn’t going to be as good as the first, but it’s not a half bad flick as it stands.