Friday, July 8, 2016

The Purge: Anarchy

   It's no big secret that I disliked The Purge, my feelings about which grew into hatred over time. Yeah, I hate that movie. It was such a criminal waste of such an epic concept that just thinking about that movie pisses me off. Apparently it was a major complaint all across the board because the makers of The Purge: Anarchy got the message. If the title alone wasn't telling of a much bigger tale being told, then give the trailers a look-see, or the posters. This one was promising chaos, carnage and violence- and not confined to a single family house either. It sounded promising even when it came out, but I wasn't keen to cave and watch a sequel to a movie that I hated- though now I'm glad I did. It should say a lot that this sequel doesn't have a '2' in the title anywhere.

   The details and legality behind the concept of a yearly 'purge' night where all crime is legal for 12 hours are still sketchy at best. Though we find out certain grades of weapons and explosives are still illegal, not that it matters. People manage still have access to plenty of guns, blades, and bombs to do tons of damage. We also find out that a certain class of politicians are exempt from being 'purged'. How nice. I mean, it's admirable that the writers and filmmakers managed to give us a host of protagonists that are engaging, or at the very least not-annoying, but the concept of the Purge still overshadows everything. I want to know more. There's still so much potential for one of these movies to dole out even more wickedly sharp socio-political commentary mixed with insanely over-the-top action/violence, all under a horror twist.

   Anarchy is a massive step in the right direction, but it's still shying away from the details and history of the Purge. I have a vague recollection of the first movie detailing a bit of history, but with how bland and underwhelming that one was, I've blocked it out. What little glimpses we get of the rules and social attitude towards purging is fascinating, and I wanted more. How are all these people who embrace the purge wholeheartedly willing to just pack it all up after 12 hours? How can they just bottle up that chaos and blood lust for a whole 'nother year? I don't just wanna hear on a background news broadcast that police and firefighters take to the street the morning after, I wanna see it. How many people are still knee-deep in purging when the siren sounds, signaling the end of purge night?

   All these maniacs with homemade masks, looking terrifying as hell, roaming the streets with shotguns, chains, chainsaws, and stuff- are all willing to be good sports and stop after 12 hours? These are the questions the movie leaves me with. There's hordes of fuckin' war boys tearing it up like it's Fury Road out there.  The average person isn't remotely interested in purging, (right up until they are) so they stay off the streets, behind barricaded and boarded up houses and apartments. The movie then realizes that the majority of the troublemakers out for blood and chaos would most likely be lower income people, gangs, and the like. It acknowledges that and fashions an interesting sub plot out of it. I was kinda disappointed by that though because it pokes holes in the movie, lemme explain.

   Anarchy tries to have a message about messed up government and class inequality, but then they also try to make it about human nature and it's inherent savagery. But they cancel each other out. The movie would have us believe that humans are vile freaks. It shows us shocking imagery like a man casually carrying out a six pack of beer onto his roof... and setting up a sniper rifle, presumably with no specific target in mind. We see a big business mogul strung up, dead, in front of a bank, with a note pinned to him. But we're also informed of a subversive government conspiracy about the purge, because not enough people are participating. I'd much prefer a story about how purging gets out of hand, showing how it was such a bad idea to begin with.

   Instead we're supposed to believe that human nature wins out by default because less and less people are reportedly even participating anymore. But, look around? Riots, killings, mass shootings, constantly. Things are bad. Fast forward ten, twenty years, with crime rates at record highs- how absurd would the concept of the purge sound then? Maybe not so much. The movie doesn't commit to this dystopic vision of mankind, and is even arguably an optimistic movie. It feels at odds with all it's gruesome imagery and rampant violence. The scary guys in masks? Not so scary after all. It's a thematic cheat. I would've been happy with less twists, and more violence. Nevertheless, the really fucked up stuff is how the rich one-percenters purge.

   They don't have to brave the Mad Max-ian streets, they send out squads to round up people for their private and regulated purge activities. It's all sick and disturbing. That's the kind of stuff that the movie does really well. It soars when it's unconcerned with conspiracy and such, and is instead dealing with the chaos of the purge on the street level. There's plenty of completely unnerving little details and imagery to make Anarchy well worth a watch. At times, it gets kinda goofy or silly, but it's still a blast. It's a movie with a relentless energy and a good pace. With it's lead Punisher-esque character played by Frank Grillo, there's plenty of firepower and skill on the good guys' side to deliver some uncomplicated action and excitement.

   Overall, what it lacks in detail and sincerety, it makes up for with it's unsettling imagery and it's much wider scope overall. If the series continues improving exponentially like this, we could be nearing entries which reach genre classic levels alongside Rollerball, Battle Royale, and Escape From New York. Here's hoping the newest sequel, Election Year- is that much better. As it is, Anarchy easily qualifies as a pulpy and chaotic guilty pleasure.

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