the purge: anarchy review – could be so much more


It’s the year 2023 and the population of Los Angeles are making final preparations for the start of the annual purge.  The New Founding Fathers of America (NFFA) are encouraging the citizens to cleanse their souls.  We are introduced to the characters who will through a variety of circumstances come together to and find themselves in a fight for survival.

The movie is directed and written by James DeMonaco who was behind the first Purge movie but is better known as a writer of titles such as Assault On Precinct 13 and The Negotiator.  The star of the movie is Frank Grillo who you will probably remember from Captain America: The Winter Soldier as Brock Rumlow.

Frank Grillo is well cast in the lead and he carries the movie well but its main strength is the clear central theme that it attempts to weave through the story.  That main theme is class warfare.  In a less than subtle way it is made clear that the Purge was established to effectively rid America of the poor working class to the benefit of the rich and privileged.  Added to the way in which religion is interwoven into the story the message I take away is that the movie is a critique of the ultra-conservative elements of the Republican party.

There are a couple of fantastic scenes including a rich family saying a prayer around a man who has sold himself to them as a ‘martyr’, and another in which the main protagonists find themselves in at a party being sold to the highest bidder as prey for a hunt.  There are other elements to the story including an anti-purge revolutionary movements that is gaining strength and the role of the Government in the Purge.

Sadly the movie falls quite a long way short of its potential and I felt frustrated and unsatisfied.  The relationships between the characters are never fully explored or expressed, in fact they are so inconsequential I haven’t bothered to write about them.  The lack of a budget shines through with the distinct lack of a feeling of anarchy as we are treated to only occasional scenes of small gangs acting out a bit.

There are lots of threads to the story that work within the overall theme of the movie but similar to the characters there is no chance that they can be developed given the limited run time of circa 100 minutes.  For me there are three or four movies mixed into one.  I feel so passionately about this that I am going to write a separate blog to flesh out my ideas.

The movie lacks a real edge to it and in my view it is a soft 15 certificate.  If the relatively small amount of blood was taken away and the swearing toned down it’s not a million miles away from a 12A.  It smells of a lack of conviction on behalf of the movie makers.  While there is a lot of potential for this franchise I suspect that for as long as they can keep churning them out for less than $10m, and achieve decent opening weekends, we are going to keep getting a luke warm stew of reasonableness.


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