‘The Purge: Anarchy’ Review

Progressive allegory so stupid it comes across as conservative parody

• July 18, 2014 5:00 am


Imagine a feature-length film written in the style of an Andy Borowitz blog post.

That’s The Purge: Anarchy.

Like the missives fired off by Borowitz—the New Yorker’s roundly reviled "parodist"—The Purge: Anarchy is ham-fisted, the sort of satire that might appeal to the most rabid and ignorant elements of your cohort, but to no one else.

The unrelenting idiocy doesn’t grate so much as it astounds. The script, as shot, doesn’t feature a single interesting or thought-provoking passage. It’s more an angry howl than a coherent statement, reminiscent of the cries uttered by a mentally handicapped individual who can’t understand why the bad men are being mean.

Like its predecessor, Anarchy takes place in an America dominated by the "New Founding Fathers." Thanks to the policies—well, policy—implemented by these democratically elected individuals, crime is nonexistent and unemployment is under five percent. What brought all this about? It was "the purge," a 12-hour period every 365 days during which all crime, up to and including murder, is legal.

How this policy would heal the economy and keep crime low is never really discussed. Oh, there’s some vague nodding at the idea that killing a few people once a year keeps the idle portion of the workforce limited—and think of all the ammunition sales! But I can’t imagine even the strongest advocate of broken windows theory would vouch for the purge as a stimulus measure.

As we pray to the god of suspension of disbelief just to make it through this nonsense, the residents of this new America pray to the New Founding Fathers. In a circle. While holding hands. Near the American flag. Because Tea Party Theocracy Gun Nuts OMG ’Merica.

Whereas 2013’s The Purge focused on the efforts of an upper middle class family in a suburban enclave to survive the annual purge, its sequel takes place in the inner city. Roaming gangs of face-painted hooligans capture stragglers while drunken louts rape their neighbors. "Unleashing the beast" cleanses the soul, you see.

For reasons that don’t particularly matter, an unnamed hero (Frank Grillo) spends the evening of the purge trying to protect mother-and-daughter duo Eva and Cali (Carmen Ejogo and Zoe Soul, respectively) and soon-to-be-separated couple Shane and Liz (Zach Gilford and Kiele Sanchez).

Eva and Cali, as the night begins, discover that the sick family patriarch has sold himself to a wealthy family—whom we see as a circle of WASPs, blonde, blue-eyed, dressed neatly in blazers and khakis—to be hacked apart by machetes after the purge begins.

"That’s how the rich purge," we’re told in a voiceover, the grinning, ghoulish visages of the upper class portraying the terror of "the purge." "How horrible," an audience member might think, if he ever could stop laughing at the absurdity of the sequence.

The Purge: Anarchy is a never-ending parade of such images, delivered with all the subtlety of a jackhammer. Every progressive hobbyhorse gets a workout. Inequality! Guns! Health care! Racism! There’s even a band of pseudo-Black Panther militants.

The Purge: Anarchy fails the Ideological Turing Test so badly, one wonders if writer/director James DeMonaco has ever heard a politician of either party speak. An example: Early on, one of the New Founding Fathers says, "Our regime was voted into office." What politician would ever call his coalition a "regime"? "Administration" or "party," would be the preferred term. "Regime"? He might as well have called his buddies "the junta."

Indeed, The Purge: Anarchy is so relentlessly aggressive in its political message, and so unfailingly stupid in presenting its arguments, that one can’t help but think DeMonaco is a crypto-conservative attempting to discredit progressive policy and liberal grievance culture.

Anarchy’s biggest failure is that it isn’t particularly unique or entertaining. A modicum of inventiveness can paper over any number of other sins. Snowpiercer may have been a rather straightforward lesson in barely warmed-over Marxism, but at least it was barely warmed-over Marxism with a bit of panache and some winning performances.

The Purge: Anarchy, by contrast, doesn’t offer a single interesting image, a solitary moment of surprise. It is pedantry defined.

Published under: Movie Reviews