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Purge: Anarchy, The
The follow up to 2013's The Purge, the second film in the series, The Purge: Anarchy was once again written and directed by James DeMonaco. You don't need to see the first movie to enjoy this follow up, though it will help. For those who haven't, essentially all of this takes place in a world where the government has made it legal for a twelve hour period of time for crime to go unpunished. Even murder, for this short period of time, is completely legal. This helps to keep the population in check, acting as, as the titles implies, a purge.
The movie is set around Los Angeles and introduces us to a few characters. First up is a waitress named Eva Sanchez (Carmen Ejogo) and her daughter Cali (Zoe Soul). They intend to basically just try to hide and wait out the night in hopes that once the twelve hour period passes, they can get back to a normal life. Unfortunately for them, a man named Big Daddy (Jack Conley) has it in for them. The story also revolves around Shane (Zach Gilford) and Liz (Kiele Sanchez), a couple whose relationship is more than a little rocky. Their car breaks down, someone has messed with it, and they find themselves strange in the middle of the city as The Purge is taking place. Added to this mix is another man, Leo (Frank Grillo), who is still grieving over the death of his son. He winds up becoming involved with Eva and Cali's collective plight and by doing so, soon teaming up with Shane and Liz as well.
As this group of strangers work together to make it to safety and survive the night, their travels find them set upon by all manner of those out to make the most out of The Purge and to maim, killer, steal and murder.
Much of the emphasis this time around is on the main characters being hunted through the streets. This allows for some suspenseful stalking and a few well timed, if superficial, jump scares to keep us intrigued and involved in the film. There is very much a cat and mouse style approach to the way that the characters are followed around and the fact that those involved in The Purge seem to enjoy playing with their prey gives this a fairly twisted edge that works in the movie's favor. As all of this plays out, the movie gets a little political with an interesting twist later in the picture where the right to purge is auctioned off to those who can afford the luxury. The movie makes some interesting statements and serves as a metaphor for much of the ‘class war' politics going around in certain circles both on a domestic and an international scale and as such, the movie is smarter than you might expect it to be in that regard. It offers not answers to these problems but a glimpse into how things could go were the country to go to Hell in such a fashion, and there's some good food for thought here. More character development certainly would have helped this out more and some of the ideas never fully form or evolve into much, but the seeds are there. Given that a third film has been announced, we can expect DeMonaco to maybe take things further in this direction as it is a more interesting side of the concepts he plays with.
The performances in the movie aren't bad at all. Carmen Ejogo is reasonably sympathetic as all she wants to do is protect her daughter, well played by Zoe Soul, and return to help her ailing father. Zach Gilford and Kiele Sanchez are fine as the couple on the skids. The movie doesn't really do as good a job getting us to invest in the outcome of their relationship as it could have but that has more to do with the script than with their acting. The real star of the show, however, is Frank Grillo. He doesn't have tons and tons of dialogue but what he has, he makes it matter. He delivers all of his lines with serious conviction and proves to be a pretty enthralling lead in the movie, particularly as the ending draws near.
This film improves upon the first one by opening things up and giving the story more room to play. The first picture, many rightly complained, was too much of a home invasion picture and because of that it didn't do as good a job as it could have in making the actual event seem like an actual event. It contained the action to a singular setting. This sequel doesn't do that, it takes things out into the streets and it has a bigger, better and scarier scale to it. Yes, some of the characters that populate the story are guilty of making bone-headed decisions, another issue that hurt the first picture, and yes there are logic gaps (Would you try to hide out at a bank? Wouldn't that be a prime target?) but a lot of times horror fans have to be forgiving of those traits. Such is the case here. Just roll with it and try not to think too much about the little things and this is a fun ride. It's not perfect because of those flaws and yeah, more logic and smarter characters would certainly help, but there's enough to like about this sequel to make it worth a watch, particularly if you did enjoy the first film. It does sometimes evolve into style over substance and the movie's one major set piece is hampered by some very fake looking CGI but there's enough here that works to make this work checking out.The Blu-ray:
The Purge: Anarchy arrives on Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 2.40.1 widescreen. As this was shot on high end digital video cameras there's obviously no problem with print damage or dirt. As to the detail and texture offered by the transfer, it's pretty strong across the board. Facial detail is pretty much perfect, especially in close up shots but we see the disc take advantage of the high definition format in medium and long distance shots too where little details like fibers on clothing or dirt on shoes becomes obvious. Color reproduction is fine, though this is a pretty dark movie from a stylistic standpoint and there are times where some post production filtering further degrades bright hues. All of this is intentional and part of the movie's look, but don't go into this expecting a whole lot of color ‘pop' as it's just not meant to look that way. Skin tones look lifelike and natural, however, and black levels are solid. The disc is free of any obvious edge enhancement and there are no problems to note with any serious compression artifacts.Sound:
The main track on the disc is an English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track although dubbed options are provided in French and Spanish language DTS 5.1 Surround Sound mixes. Subtitles are available in English SDH, French and Spanish. The lossless track on the disc is great. There are times where this mix gets very aggressive and these moments take full advantage of the added depth and clarity that the format allows for. There are a lot of well-placed directional effects used throughout the movie that add to various scenes of tension and action while the score has good depth and is quite effective. The levels are nicely balanced throughout ensuring that even when things get hectic in terms of activity, the dialogue remains clean, clear and easy to follow.Extras:
There really aren't a whole lot of extras here to discuss, though the disc does include five quick deleted scenes and a fairly generic behind the scenes featurette running roughly eight minutes in total. Throughout the featurette we do get some moderately interesting footage shot on set during the production and some quick interviews/sound bites. Animated menus and chapter selection are provided. Additionally as this is a combo pack release we get a DVD version of the movie and a download code for an HD Digital Copy. The discs come housed inside a standard sized Blu-ray case which in turn fits inside a cardboard slipcover.Final Thoughts:
The Purge: Anarchy is not a masterpiece but it is an improvement over the first movie not only in terms of its execution but also in terms of how it deals with its basic premise. The performances are pretty decent here and the movie features some admittedly very tense, well played scenes. Universal has the potential, with this series, to take things interesting directions and if this second film is any indication, it looks like they might do just that. As to the Blu-ray, it's not as stacked with extras as some fans might have hoped for but it does look and sound very good. Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.