‘Purge’ kills hope of decent sequel

Photo by JUSTIN LUBIN -- From left, Leo (Frank Grillo), Cali (Zoe Soul), Eva (Carmen Ejogo), Liz (Kiele Sanchez) and Shane (Zach Gilford) endure a night of terror in 'The Purge: Anarchy.'
Photo by JUSTIN LUBIN -- From left, Leo (Frank Grillo), Cali (Zoe Soul), Eva (Carmen Ejogo), Liz (Kiele Sanchez) and Shane (Zach Gilford) endure a night of terror in 'The Purge: Anarchy.'

Reviewer’s Rating: ★ 1/2

Released last summer and set in the year 2022, “The Purge” imagined a United States in which all hell breaks loose once a year for a 12-hour period. Purging, officially sanctioned by an elected government that calls itself the New Founders of America, has come to be accepted by many as a right.

Critics largely panned “The Purge” but a sizable audience turned out to witness the film’s on-screen mayhem. “The Purge” earned $64 million at the box office. A sequel seemed inevitable. No time was wasted in producing “The Purge: Anarchy,” released little more than a year after the original film.

Backtracking a bit, the nationwide Purge depicted in the films is a license to kill. Federal law states that all crime, including murder, is legal one night a year. Law enforcement will do nothing to stop anyone from doing anything.

As widely reviled as the original “Purge” movie was, it’s better than its sequel. The first film, featuring relatively few characters, exploited a home-invasion angle, focusing on a gated community-dwelling wealthy family that, to its shock, is pulled kicking and screaming into America’s official night of terror.

An argument can be made that 2013’s “The Purge” is a politically inspired horror movie set in a dystopia of the near future where morally bankrupt elites have devised a way to exterminate the poor in brutal, wholesale fashion.

This year’s “The Purge: Anarchy” broadens the concept, expanding to city streets and roving, heavily armed gangs that represent various agendas. Violence and mortality quotients in the second film are raised. The results are ugly and ridiculous.

Before and during the carnage, an anti-Purge rebel, Carmelo (Michael K. Williams), rails against the New Founders of America in passionate TV and Internet broadcasts. There’s more in store for Carmelo, but he’s more likely to inspire laughs than drama.

“The Purge: Anarchy” follows a band of unlucky, mostly non-purging people who are just trying to survive purge night. The group includes a squabbling couple (Zach Gilford and Kiele Sanchez) that gets stuck in the city when their car breaks down; Eva (Carmen Ejogo), a struggling waitress, and her 16-year-old daughter, Cali (Zoë Soul); and Leo, aka Sergeant (Frank Grillo), a man on mission to purge the drunk driver who killed his son.

As the group is pursued by multiple heavily-armed factions intent upon slaughter, Eva, Cali and the rest experience a harrowing night. Their peril comes in part because the already perverse culture of The Purge has grown in monstrously sadistic directions. The rich don’t just get richer, they get meaner. No philanthropists or privileged public servants in this nasty, stick-it-to-the-poor-man future.

Writer-director James DeMonaco returns to helm “The Purge: Anarchy.” The invention, creepiness and suspense he put into “The Purge” doesn’t show up in the sequel. Even if it’s still eerie to hear characters in the hours before commencement, as the start of The Purge is called, ritualistically saying goodbye with the phrase, “Stay safe,” the new “Purge” is an especially unnecessary sequel. It becomes an orgy of violence, a goofy parody of dystopian storytelling.