Monday, July 28, 2014

CAPSULE!: The Purge: Anarchy

James DeMonaco's THE PURGE had an intriguing premise: in a near future, weirdly neocon utopian America, citizens are allowed to go on a twelve-hour, consequence-free crime spree at a predetermined time of the year. But many found this juicy premise undermined by a certain lack of real ideas on screen, with a low budget limiting the movie to the story of a single home under siege. The premise's built-in social commentary was set aside, many felt, to craft yet another home invasion horror-thriller.

The new sequel, THE PURGE: ANARCHY, finds DeMonaco working a bit more confidently on a much larger canvas, setting up three different plot threads that collide on the streets of Los Angeles with the Purge well under way. A married couple run for their lives after their car breaks down just as the Purge is starting; and a mother and daughter are dragged from their home by faceless soldiers for some sinister but unknown purpose. All of these characters suddenly fall in with a taciturn man (known only as Sergeant, played with deep reservoirs of wounded masculinity by Frank Grillo) who's clearly Purging with a mission in mind. This is a summer sequel with a rare, angry social conscience, mindful of the human and social costs of the violent carnage it depicts.

DeMonaco expands also on the breadth of his ideas, probing specifically how middle & lower class people fare in the face of the Purge (and how the thing is deliberately used by the government as yet another means of keeping those troublesome populations under control). There's much to chew over here, and there are enough gaps that one is grateful that DeMonaco gives us space to draw our own conclusions (even if there's lingering suspicion that DeMonaco hasn't quite put it all together himself). One feels like this is the movie DeMonaco would have preferred to start the series with, and hopes that he has several more in him. And even if the final confrontation between Sergeant and his ultimate target seems like it could have been played for greater depth, the final moments of the movie register with power, even grace. Though it feels like DeMonaco is still figuring out both the details of his world and its correlations to our own, in the end he's crafted a story that makes us think as well as feel. One emerges from it shaken, elated, moved. Purged, perhaps.

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