When audiences saw the trailer for The Purge (2013), many thought it promised a great plot and had vast potential. Set in the near future, crime rates have been at an all time low since the introduction of annual purge, which is one day every year during which all crime is legal. Unfortunately, the film did not do the unique concept justice, centering around an upper-middle class family as they attempt to survive the night while harboring a homeless man from murderous thugs. However, the film’s sequel, The Purge: Anarchy, took a much broader yet detailed look at the infamous day, and overall is a more satisfying film.
Set in Los Angeles, the sequel follows an ex-police sergeant named Leo (played by Frank Grillo) as he pre pares for the annual purge. The audience quickly learns that Leo’s only son was killed at a young age by a drunk driver and that Leo has since been divorced. The driver got off on a technicality, and from the beginning of the film it is clear that Leo seeks revenge on the man who killed his son and ruined his life. While driving through downtown on the day of the purge, Leo comes across four people, all in need of saving from purgers: two sisters and a young couple. Leo’s new mission becomes getting them to safety. His experiences with the insightful would-be victims influences his morals and outlook on the day. However, Leo must ultimately make the inevitable decision: will he go through with his initial plans of seeking revenge against the drunk driver?
Leo is a character that the audience can really root for as we feel great sympathy for him due to the immense loss he suffered. He also clearly has some good in him, as evidenced by his willingness to protect others from purgers. A deeper and more complex character than Ethan Hawke’s James Sandin (protagonist of The Purge), Leo is played expertly by Grillo, who gives a sincere and believable portrayal of a self-loathing father out for vengeance.
What really separates this thriller from it’s inferior prequel is it’s depiction of the infamous day in an entire city rather than in one house. We get to see several different scenarios of purging, ranging from people kidnapping others in order to sell them to the purging upper class, to a woman shooting her sister in front of their family due to infidelity.
A frightening aspect of this film is the reality of the series of events. Though it may seem like an outlandish concept, the film chooses to use scare us with relatable and believable crimes rather than with incessant blood and gore.
When compared with The Purge, The Purge: Anarchy is better in just about every way imaginable. A stronger cast, superior execution of the premise and more developed and intriguing characters make the sequel a fairly enthralling film with more heart than the first.
Unfortunately, Anarchy does not have the courage to branch out and become more than just another fleeting horror/thriller. It had the potential to become a more mature and thoughtful film by further exploring what the film should have centered on: human morality. The Purge: Anarchy will be released on DVD Oct. 21.