Hidden well beneath the bloodshed, loud gun play, needless plot additions and over-the-top implausibility, there is a powerful message in The Purge: Anarchy. The problem is that any commentary is lost in a clumsy script, characters that generate little empathy and what feels like the producers’ rush to cash a check.
The original Purge was set in the future, where for 12 hours no laws were enforced, and people could do whatever they wanted up to and including murder with no consequence. It was violent, and audiences loved it.
The sequel features a different cast, one that sets out to either simply survive for 12 hours in downtown Los Angeles, or exact revenge.
Rather than focus on making it about the film’s subtext -- class distinction and class warfare in this new world disorder -- writer-director James DeMonaco settles for people just trying to kill each other.
The merry band that meets up includes a young couple (real-life couple Zach Gilford and Kiele Sanchez) whose car breaks down on the edge of L.A. just before the start of the Purge, a military man seeking revenge (Frank Grillo) and a mother-daughter duo (Zoe Soul and Justina Machado) running from potential murderers.
Other than Grillo, who is physically convincing and does more with this script than the rest, they evoke little real emotion. They’re just potential target practice.
The talented Michael K. Williams is wasted in a role as an anti-Purge leader we only briefly see — until he magically appears to save a few hides from the rich people who hunt the poor for sport.
DeMonaco actually does have something to say: All of this violence is a way for population reduction, and the middle and lower classes are to be eliminated with each purge.
It’s just too bad he doesn’t have a better way to say it.