An improvement. So the government still hasn’t realized what a terrible idea it is to legalize crime for 12 hours a year. We get a new night of purging, this time focusing on a group of strangers led by a mysterious man with guns (Frank Grillo), caught on the street and sticking together in an attempt to survive. I thought the first Purge was adequate at best; I felt that Ethan Hawke helped elevate it as best he could, but low production values led to a fairly middling product. But it overperformed at the box office, so of course that means that we need a sequel. I will say that this is a significant step up from the original for a number of different reasons. I think that they had to have listened to their fans here; the implied chaos outside was always way more interesting than focusing on just a single family, so why confine your movie to just a couple of rooms in one house?
With this, you are moving from destination to destination in the streets, so it does feel much more dangerous because there is so much more risk assumed. Also, you have Frank Grillo who is essentially playing The Punisher; I love the new Captain America, but the role he plays there is shrouded in mystery, so much so that he doesn’t get a whole lot of screentime. Here, he’s given plenty to chew on, and he is easily the standout thing about this. From the beginning, this does do a good job at putting you in the mindset of these people, but it is still a premise where you have to blur your eyes and work diligently to suspend your disbelief; crime being legalized for any amount of time is something that could never conceivably happen, so you have to prevent yourself from thinking about it too long so as to be able to watch this without laughing.
While this is better, it still never strives to be great. With this kind of movie, you could totally add an additional layer of biting social commentary, but it never gets that ambitious. I will say that this is much better shot, but coming from a movie that was 80% lit by flashlight, that’s hardly saying anything. I do like the decision to not make this a bottle movie, as it does make the overall story more interesting, but I still don’t think this is as good as it could be.
The Purge: Anarchy (2014) ***
– Critic for Hire