Like a playbook version of Donald Trump's MAGA plan. Complete with Russian murder tourists. Prescient much?
The Purge: Anarchy. 2014. Directed & Written by James DeMonaco.
Starring Frank Grillo, Carmen Ejogo, Zach Gilford, Kiele Sanchez, Zoë Soul, Justina Machado, John Beasley, Jack Conley, Noel Gugliemi, Castulo Guerra, Michael Kenneth Williams, and Edwin Hodge. Blumhouse Productions.
Rated 14A. 103 minutes.
★★★★My favourite thing about the fact The Purge: Anarchy exists is that there is room for exploration within the speculative universe that the film/its predecessor inhabits.
There are a lot of social issues in both these films, especially the sequel. Because what we’re seeing in Anarchy here is a group of stories which represent the wide reach of social consequences that enacting an event such as The Purge might cause. It would mean so many different things to so many different people, of all kinds, of all mindsets and sensibilities, of all mental states.
People want to continually try and say that The Purge as a concept would never happen, a government would not allow it. THESE FILMS TAKE PLACE IN A WORLD WHERE AMERICA HAS BECOME A FULL-FLEDGED TOTALITARIAN REGIME! If you don’t understand that and you can’t recognize what that means, then you probably shouldn’t be judging the film because you think “This would never happen”, and you might not want to keep talking about it. Because this is not meant to happen in our reality, this is speculative fiction, it’s a horror-thriller within a fictional near future in America.
So strap in, have some fun. Stop being so serious all the time….
RELEASE. THE. BEAST.The Purge: Anarchy takes place on the verge of the annual Purge event, March 21st in 2023.
Several stories are happening at once. Everyone counts down to Purge time.
On one end of town, Eva Sanchez (Carmen Ejogo) and her daughter Cali Sanchez (Zoë Soul) lived with Eva’s sick father, Rico (John Beasley).
Then there are Shane (Zach Gilford) and Liz (Kiele Sanchez), a couple who’ve clearly hit rough times, and they end up stranded with car trouble just as the event begins to come down upon the city.
All the while, Leo “Sarge” Barnes (Frank Grillo) has a personal tragedy which drives him. He has all kinds of weaponry, a car made to sustain damage throughout The Purge, and there’s obviously someone, or some people, that he seems to be looking for; his bedroom wall has pictures plastered over it.
Once the murder on the streets begins, including the viciously callous Big Daddy (Jack Conley), Sarge and the others end up coming together as the violence escalates to epic proportions, and they’re all forced to trust one another. At least for a little while.SPOILERS AHEAD.
The part of the plot that scares me most is the angle with Papa Rico (John Beasley) because it speaks to social consequences of a different kind than just simply racially motivated, and now sanctioned one night a year in March, murder. Here, we have a man selling himself to a bunch of sick white folk who want to have their Purge in a perceived civilized, more quaint and special manner, and above SAFELY because they’re true cowards who want the thrill without the risk; a celebratory bit of Purging, if you will, dressed to the nines with champagne on-hand.
It’s sick, and it is also something you can imagine happening – brave, brave people sacrificing themselves in such a manner in order to afford better lives for their family members, offering themselves up on the one night a year murder is legal just to help out with the bills and the rent, all because they’re old, or they’re sick, or they just simply don’t want to live in a sick America that has descended into madness.
Great, effective part to the plot that I find highly disturbing in its own right.Then you’ve got Sarge (Frank Grillo) whose motivation to Purge is not like so many of the other maniacs out looking for a sick thrill every March 21st. No, Sarge heads out in the dark of night for the Purge because he has a vendetta, he needs revenge. He isn’t looking for innocents to kill, or perceived ‘scum of society’ (as the fresh young whites in the first film were out doing). He’s got a score to settle. Plus, he’s got the gear and the firepower to make sure the job gets done, and gets done damn well.
I think Grillo is a talented actor. He might not have the extreme range of some others, but he has a lot of heart. I really do think he’s good in this role. Also, the character itself I dig because it shows a whole other angle to the entire Purge that we didn’t get to see in the first film. So to have a guy like Grillo play Sarge worked; he didn’t need to act to any Shakespearean level, he just had to give it some guts, which panned out perfectly. Grillo is a physical dude and that helped for this performance.There’s a genuinely good level of action in this one that the first doesn’t reach. Not to say that’s a problem for the original, but I like that there’s some more excitement here. The premise of The Purge here is bigger in scope, involving more of the city, more people, instead of the more confined location in the first film.
Not only that, I found things truly terrifying. I mean, in The Purge there’s a degree of safety for awhile until things get going and people start to break into James Sandin’s home. Here, there’s just chaos and madness in the streets. Seeing some of the masked people in the streets wandering about with machetes, guns, all sorts of weapons – it’s chilling at times. Imagine getting caught trying to get home and then The Purge comes down on you; what would you do? Run like fucking hell. I like the tension involved in trying to imagine what it would be like on that one night out in those streets. It’d be like a nightmare come to life.There’s some appropriately twisted stuff in this movie.
One part that disturbed me was while Sarge (Frank Grillo) leads his rag-tag group around, they come across that woman with a megaphone just screaming absolute nonsense and firing off an assault rifle; corpses are littered across the street down below. Cracking scene that shows little glimpses into the world of others in this world of The Purge and the New Founding Fathers.
There are some excellent scenes like this, which take us further into the universe started in the first film, a creepily crazed vision of America from writer/director James DeMonaco.
A great bit is where a Wall Street banker type is strung up with a sign on him, bloodied, chains around his wrists and ankles – he robbed someone’s pensions, put some people in the poorhouse. You can see how so many would eventually start using The Purge to exact their brand of social justice, whatever flavour it might come in.
It’s funny – I see some complains about how Sarge was being prompted to reveal more about himself. What’s the problem there? Even while these people are willing to follow the man because he obviously can handle himself, don’t you think you’d want to know why this guy was out on the night of The Purge? I would. Might not keep pressing too much, yet still, he could’ve been leading them anywhere. I think it’s only natural someone would push to try and figure out who the hell this guy is, or was – because clearly he’s a changed man from who he’d been.
Plus, I mean… character development? I’m not saying The Purge: Anarchy is a perfect film, by any definition of the term. I just think people want to give it too hard of a time when it’s got a lot to offer.I love what this sequel brings to the table; it ups the ante, it makes things more wide and completes The Purge universe where the New Founding Fathers have taken control of society, wiping out the poor essentially. There are some not-so-great things here – usually I’m a fan of Michael K. Williams, but I don’t like this role. I thought the film could’ve done without that part. Perhaps it could’ve waited for the third film, round out a trilogy with a story centred on groups trying to eliminate The Purge and the totalitarian regime headed by the New Founding Fathers. Here, this was a plot that sort of gets lost in the mix. Good stuff, just didn’t work fully here.
There are great scenes here, some of action, some of horror with viciousness and that thriller element. Fits in with some good modern horror movies. I can’t say everything works the way it should, but I feel there’s enough here to make The Purge: Anarchy a worthy sequel to a nice little surprisingly fun film. Judge on your own. I do think there are social issues this movie explores, along with its predecessor. People will continue to pass these off as silly movies, though, they are much more than that. Even better, they’re fun, they’re entertainment, and if you let yourself you can enjoy them a good deal.
The Purge. 2013. Directed & Written by James DeMonaco.
Starring Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey, Max Burkholder, Adelaide Kane, Edwin Hodge, Rhys Wakefield, Tony Oller, Arija Bareikis, Tom Yi, Chris Mulkey, and Tisha French. Blumhouse Productions. Rated 14A. 85 minutes. Horror/Thriller.
Now to start – I have an aunt who is a full-fledged American, I have friends who are American – so when I say things about America, please don’t assume that I’m talking about EVERY SINGLE AMERICAN. I’m not, at all. Many of you who read this are American, and I bet you’re awesome people.
However, American society as a whole has an obsession with violence. Not just violence, gun violence in particular. It’s an epidemic. Anyone who denies that is in denial, in my opinion. It’s an obvious observation; nothing revolutionary about what I’m saying here. Every single day there’s a new story about police killing unarmed black men, every week or two a mass shooting in a public place. Violence is on the news almost endlessly, it seems.
So when people bash on The Purge for not being realistic, sure – it isn’t meant to be a documentary. This is also not science fiction, as the IMDB categorization would have you believe. This is speculative crime fiction in my mind. There are elements of a thriller, obviously, as we’re treated to a snapshot of what American life might be like on nights when a Purge would happen. Also, a few good moments you can say are straight up horror.
It isn’t a perfect movie, but I think that it’s pretty damn good. There’s solid acting in the lead roles, as well as several of the supporting ones. Director & writer James DeMonaco doesn’t rely on any ridiculous CGI to get the job done. What he does rely on is the acting, but also his own script affords opportunities which draw on the fears of everyone watching: what if The Purge was a real event? Yeah, I know in the real world the likelihood of this actually happening is so slim there’s no point in discussing it as a real event (perhaps there is in a more educational perspective than my shitty little blog). However, there doesn’t have to be a perfectly plausible world where this would happen. It’s speculative fiction, it represents a metaphorical space where this could happen because of the far right-wing conservative views that some groups/parties hold in America. I could see some politicians backing a ridiculous policy like The Purge, trying to pass it as an alternative to reducing crime/et cetera; it would never pass, clearly, but is it so hard to believe some nutjob would actually suggest something wild like this? I don’t think so. That alone is enough to justify The Purge as a fun little horror flick.
Regardless, it’s about totalitarianism, the concept of a police state – in every single American state – and how extreme right-wing politics have the ability to rise in the wake of economic collapse.
The American government becomes a totalitarian regime in the early 2010s. After the economy collapses, a police state emerges to combat the effects felt across the nation. Every year, on March 21st an event named “The Purge” occurs where all crime is legal, as well as the fact all emergency services are suspended for 12 hours until 7am on the 22nd. Very few restrictions are involved, mostly pertaining to government officials and Class 4 weapons. Apparently, The Purge is responsible for a drop in both crime and unemployment, bringing the American economy back to a level of unparalleled growth.
In 2022, as The Purge begins, James Sandin (Ethan Hawke) heads home after having an excellent day – he sells security systems designed specifically to lock down houses for The Purge (ah ha – commentary!). He and his wife Mary (Lena Headey), plus their two children Zoey (Adelaide Kane) and Charlie (Max Burkholder) are getting prepared to lockdown for the evening. However, things don’t go as planned this year for James and his family. First of all, Zoey’s boyfriend Henry (Tony Oller) has snuck himself in to stay overnight; he’s older, which pisses her father off. Unfortunately for Zoey, Henry unknowingly has plans to confront dear ole dad. Even worse, though, is the fact that young Charlie lets in a man off the street (Edwin Hodge) who claims he’s being tracked, saying they’re trying to kill him. With the man inside, James is unprepared for what will come next.
Soon, a group of people come knocking. They’re out for The Purge – to “release the beast” as it’s frequently called – and are lead by a man who unmasks himself (Rhys Wakefield). He rings the doorbell, politely explaining himself, and tells James + family that they’re looking for the man who was let inside. Ultimatums are given, James tries to stand his ground, but eventually those “fine, young, very educated guys & gals” will get in, one way or another. Even if they’ve got to huff and puff and blooooow the house down.
“We don’t want to kill our own,” he says. “Please just let us Purge!”
There are a lot of things going on in this movie that I think people ignore. Sure, maybe the logistics of everything are not perfect, but whatever. There are a lot of messages in here about the social issues, violence included, which plague America on a daily basis.
Right now, on a day when Officer Dipshit or whatever that piece of garbage’s name is who shot Sam DuBose, is it so hard to look at The Purge and admit it says things which are downright true about America overall?
The line above screams the problems of race which America faces on a day to day norm. Black men are killed by the dozens every year, it seems, worse and worse as the years go by. Here we’ve got a bunch of lily-white American “guys & gals” out having their Purge and who do they choose? That’s right, a black man. Because he’s not one of their own. So they hunt him down and any sympathizers in their way? Release the beast on them, too.
Just like nowadays, people who support the victims are treated like the Sandin family. Clearly not literally, but you catch my drift.
What I love, though, is that James Sandin (Ethan Hawke) is not an innocent in all this debacle. While his wife and children are indeed innocent bystanders, essentially, James is guilty as anyone. He may as well be out Purging with the rest of those people; even explaining to his son what the night ‘means’ he says that if they felt the need to, he and his wife would Purge because the annual night “saved this country“. So while we feel terror for James, and certainly his family, he’s still culpable partly in the overall societal go-along with The Purge as an event.
Sandin makes money selling systems that are built solely because of The Purge. Now, I don’t mean to say that’s how it started off. I’m sure James probably worked for a security company of some sort and once The Purge was enacted as an official event they probably just up and capitalized on the opportunity to make money. Regardless of the process (I just know there are people who nitpick so let’s get to the fucking nitty gritty then), James and the company he works for are exploiting this, so they’re only going along with the entire totalitarian government which has a deathgrip on American society here in DeMonaco’s film.
I just find that whole angle interesting because there are elements to that part of James – guilt, fear for his family and what he has been a party to as a profiteer of totalitarian policy – which I felt Ethan Hawke really brought out in the character. He’s one solid actor. I love that he’s done some horror/horror-ish stuff as of late, including the not amazing but a lot of creepy fun – Sinister. Brings a bit of credibility to genre pictures when you have good actors; they don’t have to be big time names, but that certainly does not hurt. Here it works with both Hawke, as well as Lena Headey. She gets a break from being a hard ass bitch – Cersei motherfuckin’ Lannister on Game of Thrones – to play a woman who is thrust into a world she never ever wanted, hoping her family can make it through the night. She and Hawke play well together as husband and wife, especially in some incredibly tense moments.
There’s a cold calculation to the character Rhys Wakefield plays, the unmasked Purge vigilante at James Sandin’s door. The way he shoots one of his fellow Purgers who screams “just give us the homeless pig, you fuck!” into the house, I found it perfect. It’s not just sly acting on Wakefield’s part, who does well with his performance. The character shows us how those sort operate – the type who have problems with the homeless, the black, the people of any other colour, yet they act civilized, as if politeness on the level of manners is in some sense a way to validate all their other disgusting behaviour (racism/sexism/you name it). So I think this moment, when he shoots the masked Purger, is a real great bit that works on a couple levels: shock, as well as a brief insight into the polite Purger.
We get some morality play as well with the conflicted character of James Sandin. Eventually, he has to make a choice, and in the end: is it worse to kill some straight out, or to hand them over to people knowing they will be killed? Isn’t it the same?
Part of that is a total moral/philosophical debate that could really rage on for a while, depending on who’d be doing the debating. Anyways, I think it adds a fun level to the action in the last half hour of The Purge.
Not only that, there’s a great twist in the finale.
AHHHHHH – LADIES & GENTLEMEN, AHHHHHHH – THIS IS YOUR CAPTAIN SPEAKING. PLEASE BUCKLE UP: WE WILL BE EXPERIENCING SOME SPOILERS COMING UP FOR A MOMENT OR TWO.
I thought it only added to the commentary of the film that already existed to have the neighbours, who we’d previously seen only briefly at the start of the film, be the ones who want to have the thrill of killing the Sandin family. It’s just bloody and poetic justice, really. In a disturbing sense. I’m glad that things played out in the very end how they did, but still – the neighbours were a good touch.
Because it speaks so well to the idea that we don’t know the people around us, not truly. We never can, no matter how long we spend around them. Sometimes the same goes for people you even live with, but here it does well to show how even the “normal” people around the neighbourhood would indulge in their Purge fantasies, willingly
One of my favourite moments: the masked girl skipping on down the hall, machetes in town swinging at her sides. It is super creepy, I dig it so hard. Only for a moment, long enough to set in. Perfectly executed shot that I thought worked wonders.
In reality, this movie is a 4 out of 5 star horror-thriller, with some speculative social fiction mixed into the pot.
Balls to the folks who say “This would never happen” – okay, well let’s throw out Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and countless other horror films that are wonderful. Not saying this is on the level of those, which I do consider classics and I don’t care what kind of bullshit people get on with like that it’s typical to like those movies; whatever the fuck ever, man. They’re great stuff and helped the genesis of what horror is now today.
So I had a lot of fun watching The Purge. I also enjoyed the sequel, despite what others seem to think about it on the whole. For me, it’s an interesting concept with both horror and thriller elements. Like I said, it also has some social discussion going on. If people want to ignore that, fine, but it’s there. You can’t shake that fact. I tend to believe there are some good statements here, too. Not just all nonsense and scriptwriting creation – there are things to which we ought to pay attention. But if you want, think it’s trash and that horror movies can never say anything worthwhile.
I’ll take what I can from it, and enjoy a good viewing every now and then – it’s a fun modern horror movie with lots of tense thrills.