Sunday, August 3, 2014


Eighteenth century Irish author and satirist Jonathan Swift would have enjoyed writer & director James DeManaco’s violent, sanguine, urban crime thriller “The Purge: Anarchy” (***1/2 OUT OF ****) even more than its predecessor the home invasion epic “The Purge.”  The premise that our government has allocated one day annually for citizens to assuage their violent urges by committing criminal acts of any kind without fear of punishment is audacious.  Moreover, since America has been purging for 6 years, the economy has improved significant and crime has been cut to the bone.  “The Purge: Anarchy” is comparable to Swift’s immortal essay “A Modest Proposal.”  Written in 1729, “A Modest Proposal” urged destitute Irishmen to sell their children as fodder to feed the insatiable appetites of the wealthy.  In “The Purge: Anarchy,” a terminally-ill senior citizen, sells himself for $100-thousand to an affluent family so they can purge in the confines of their palatial mansion without risking their lives on the streets. Mind you, DeMonaco doesn’t advocate the idea of an annual government-sanctioned crime holiday any more than Swift expected his impoverished counterparts to cannibalize their children.  Hollywood doesn’t often attempt to be as satirical as the “Purge” movies.  Lately, “The Hunger Games” movies with their annual tournament of death is the closest that Tinsel town has come to incisive political satire for mainstream audiences.  Unlike “The Hunger Games,” the “Purge” movies occur about a decade in the future.  Nevertheless, everything looks and sounds like contemporary America as we know it.  The New Founding Fathers, who rule America, appear to be ultra-conservatives, and they place a high premium on religion, but the God that they worship bears little resemblance to the popular, mainstream religious denominations. 
“The Purge: Anarchy” opens two hours and 26 minutes before the annual purge scheduled each March.  Waitress Eva Sanchez (Carmen Ejogo of “Absolute Beginners”) and another waitress Tanya (Justina Machado of “Torque”) are waiting on their boss to let them go home for the evening.  Things tonight are drastically different because it is purge night.  Essentially, you can do anything criminal during this twelve-hour period, but the authorities cannot prosecute you.  Eva tries to persuade her boss to raise her salary since she is finding it difficult to pay for her father’s pricey medicine.  Papa Rico (John Beasley of “The General’s Daughter”) hates this medicine and refuses to take it.  Rico’s granddaughter, Cali (Zoë Soul of “Prisoners”), convinces him to take it.  Rico warns Eva and Cali not to awake him from his slumber; all he wants to do is sleep through this terrifying holiday.  Meanwhile, Eva informs Cali that her boss balked at her pay raise request.  Later, these two women are shocked when they discover Papa Rico has sold himself to the highest bidder to be slaughtered.  He has arranged matters so Eva and Cali will receive a small monetary fortune for his sacrificial act.  Eva and Cali are sitting safely in their apartment when intruders in black combat gear with automatic weapons burst in and abduct them at gun point. 
In another part of the city, an anonymous individual known only as Sergeant (Frank Grillo of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”) is arming himself to the teeth for an evening of purging.  He knows how to wield a variety of lethal firearms.  Sergeant is one tough looking dude, and he drives an evil black sedan with a trunk crammed with an arsenal of firearms.  Sergeant is set to purge until he spots the thugs-in-black dragging Eva and Cali against their will from their apartment building.  A menacing looking man in a baseball cap and a long butcher’s apron, Big Daddy (Jack Conley of “Payback”), who is standing in an 18-wheeler, wants the women.  Against his better judgment, Sergeant intervenes.  He riddles the thugs manhandling Eva and Cali, and one of his bullets creases Big Daddy’s left cheek and knocks the villain off his feet.  Sergeant escorts Eva and Cali back to his car, but he finds a surprise awaiting them.  Two more innocent bystanders whose car broke down on them have taken refuge in his back seat, and he cannot force them to get out.  Sergeant understands the old saying that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.  Big Daddy recovers in time to open fire with his machine gun that spews armor-piercing rounds.  Our heroes escape his wrath, but Sergeant’s car conks out on him because Big Daddy’s bullets have blown out the engine.  Sergeant and his quartet of refugees set out on foot through the city with Eva assuring him that he can get another car from her waitress friend Tonya at her apartment building.  More surprises ensue for Sergeant and his new friends.
Watching either “The Purge” or “The Purge: Anarchy,” you might be tempted to reprimand DeManaco for his implied advocacy of firearms and murder.  In fact, however, DeManaco deplores the overt use of gunplay.  What makes “The Purge: Anarchy” even more relevant is the class warfare theme that DeManaco has developed with even greater intensity than he did in “The Purge.”  DeManaco hammers home the theme of haves versus have-nots emphatically throughout this superior, slam-bang sequel.  Meantime, the only link between the sequel and the original is an African-American supporting character that you might have missed, even if you’ve seen the original.  He was referred to simply as the Bloody Stranger in “The Purge.”  In “The Purge: Anarchy,” he is designated strictly as the Stranger.  If you have not seen “The Purge,” you won’t appreciate the irony in actor Edwin Hodge’s encore performance.  Whereas “The Purge” occurred in a gated, elite neighborhood, “The Purge: Anarchy” expands the playing field to the city at large.  For example, obese woman roams a bridge with a bull horn and a machine gun urging citizens to test her marksmanship.  Busses set ablaze cruise through the night. DeManaco makes maximum use of his sinewy, 103 minutes to forge a palatable atmosphere of paranoia.

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