Review: THE PURGE: ANARCHY (2014) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Review: THE PURGE: ANARCHY (2014)

Review: THE PURGE: ANARCHY (2014)
While the first movie is effective enough, the second outing of THE PURGE: ANARCHY is sadly reduced to a run-of-the-mill action sequel with nothing much left to say.

James DeMonaco's THE PURGE was quite a surprise when it came out last year. Made at a tiny US$3 million budget, the micro-budgeted thriller had its fair share of ambition (you can read my review here). The first movie was heavily flawed and while I understood that many critics didn't actually like it that much, I found the high-concept premise behind THE PURGE was intriguing enough to make me checked it out at the end of the day. No doubt the surprise box-office success of the first movie has led a quick sequel in a mere year later. And this time, writer-director James DeMonaco is ambitious enough to stretch from the first movie's claustrophobic home-invasion setting to a more action-oriented citywide setup in this sequel, THE PURGE: ANARCHY. However, ambition alone isn't enough to justify the surprisingly poor outcome that James DeMonaco fails to ignite the premise for the second time around.

In this all-new sequel, the Annual Purge has already headed towards its sixth-year anniversary and this time THE PURGE: ANARCHY introduces a new set of characters. One is a struggling single mother named Eva (Carmen Ejogo), her 16-year-old teenage daughter Cali (Zoe Soul). Another one is bickering married couple named Shane (Zach Gilford) and Liz (Kiele Sanchez) and finally, there's a lonely gunman Sergeant (Frank Grillo), who is all geared up with enough weapons in his possession and planning to head out into the night for the personal reason of his own. Soon they cross path as the 6th Annual Purge begins to take place at 7.00pm where the city of Los Angeles becomes a hunting playground for a masked gang of Purgers looking for their prey.
While the all-new cast is admittedly pale in comparison against the first movie's more intriguing and solid cast (Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey and Rhys Wakefield), some of the acting ensembles here have their share of decent performances. Both Carmen Ejogo and Kiele Sanchez are worthwhile enough as two struggling mother and daughter trying to survive the night, while Frank Grillo (best known for his breakthrough role as Brock Rumlow in this year's CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER) made quite an impression playing a no-nonsense lone gunman.

The quietly intense moment that leads to a sudden burst of violence when one of the supposedly normal-looking family members from Eva's workplace friend, Tanya (Justina Machado) ends up in an unexpected killing rampage inside the apartment.

In the first movie, writer-director James DeMonaco at least has something intriguing to say about the senseless act of violence which is worthy of a debate. However, in the second movie, the attempted social commentary such as the class divide between the rich and the poor is hardly engaging this time around. Problem is, DeMonaco's script has reeked of stale writing that even the movie's last-minute attempt to add in a fresh scene involving rich people auctioning their bids to purge off selected victims feel disappointingly feeble than something provocative. Suffice to say, I felt that watching THE PURGE: ANARCHY is like revisiting the same old rehash of the first movie minus the thought-provoking narrative that works effectively the first time around. And although I must applaud the way DeMonaco expanded the scope of the narration to a citywide setting, there are surprisingly little claustrophobic tension and worthy thrills to keep you excited in a long run throughout the duration of the movie. Despite all the casual display of gore and violence, it's kind of sad to see most of the action here are shockingly toothless and lacking that certain kinetic (and creative) flair needed for this kind of movie.


It's really a pity that James DeMonaco botches his own premise and fails to deliver in this lacklustre sequel. THE PURGE: ANARCHY is certainly one of those highly-potential movies that could have been better if done right. Too bad almost everything here is a pale comparison to the more superior first movie. If there's ever a third PURGE movie in the future, I really hope that James DeMonaco can do better than this.

* This review is written courtesy from United International Pictures Malaysia (UIP) press screening *

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