The original may have been a flawed, but very interesting idea, but the series has really snowballed over the past few years. And the release of “The Purge: Election Year” during the political times of 2016 made certain that this was out to make a statement. But does that still hold relevance now?
Cutting to the chase, where the original focused on the events of the Purge in one home, and the sequel looked at it from a street level, this entry shows off the national grip this yearly night of free murder and violence has. The opposing sides of the Presidential Election are heavily split – those in power doing everything possible to maintain their position, with the rival nominee dead set on ending the Purge. But with a new rule this year removing sanctuary for all Government officials from being attacked, the rival is now under threat and from more than just those out on the streets.
So in typical sequel fashion, the stakes are higher, and the scope reaches further outwards. You get to see the debate about the Purge on a national level between those hell-bent on holding onto their spots in power, and those using any means to change things in any way. The political nods being done in the movie are from a super-violent, saturated point of view, but they do indeed relate in some fashion to today’s reality. You can feel it brimming underneath the surface, ready to boil over at any second in a similar way to how things are going now.
In terms of the story, the middle act has a lot in common with that of “The Purge: Anarchy”, where our heroes are making their way through the dangerous streets while avoiding contact with everyone else who’d try and kill them upon sight. Frank Grillo returns as the bodyguard to Senator Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell). His previous experiences make him prepared for anything that shows up, giving way to plenty of bad ass action pieces. In fact, most of those we are following are given their moments to shine, with us getting lots of gore and kills to get pumped up about. It is chaotic, unpredictable, and very satisfying.
Giving enemies from two different sides who are out to attack the lead characters makes things a little more interesting, but not to a major extent. It yields some more variety to a scene or two, but the rest is quite similar to before. The turn of introducing a freedom fighter, BLM-style group towards the end of the third act gives the goal more depth as well as that new viewpoint. The group is on-side with the Senator, but they’ll do anything to see it happen, to her dismay and protest. Again, it gives a nice little point of thought over how far should one go in order to break a rule of tyranny personified in this case by the Purge. I liked this spin even though it has been done before in movies to varying extents – it fits the world this movie is set within and the very violent extremes that both sides utilise.
Going more into the nitty-gritty, the production is probably the best we have seen so far from the series. It is a world away from the kind of sloppy first entry where aspects such as the editing let the side down a lot. Here, it all feels spot on, the camera work lets you have a good view of everything that is going on, while retaining that ground-level feel. The action has plenty of weight to it, and several moments of pure shock that I didn’t see coming at all. That hyper-stylised look to the masks and characters is here, though not as goofy as in previous times. The city has gangs that are clearly defined by their costumes, and makes their designs feel more believable. Think of “The Warriors” but with more neon, and you see what I mean. It was a cool inclusion, making the Purgers look less like a bunch of loonies in cheap Halloween attire.
The ending is equally satisfying, but shooting gallery and a means to propel forward with another entry in the series if desired. If I was to raise one issue, the similarity in the survival on the streets between this and the second film is a little too close. There’s a bit of deja-vu going on although really, someone could say that about any action series.
I was really pleased with how this turned out, it could have just been a re-telling of the previous movies and cashed in on the name rather than the content. But they added a new sense of scale, new characters that were very interesting, political viewpoints to gander at, great action and editing, and an overall expansion to the world in line with what we have seen before. “The Purge: Anarchy” is not subtle or deep in thought provoking. Instead you get a swathe of bullets and a neon American Flag that sends your senses near their limits. If that is what you wanted from this, I think you’ll be very happy with the result. Otherwise, you might find this a bit too brash. Personally, I think this is a series that has continuously improved with each iteration, and that is an impressive statement for the resume.
Thanks for reading!