(US/France - 2014)
Written and directed by James DeMonaco. Cast: Frank Grillo, Carmen Ejogo, Zach Gilford, Kiele Sanchez, Zoe Soul, Michael K. Williams, Justina Machado, John Beasley, Jack Conley, Noel G, Edwin Hodge, Keith Stanfield. (R, 104 mins)
Last summer, the $3 million THE PURGE grossed $64 million to become one of season's surprise sleeper hits, despite no one really liking it that much. And yet, exactly one year later, here's THE PURGE: ANARCHY. When any film rakes in 21x its budget, a sequel is going to happen whether you want one or not. A year is a long time, and a lot of people have forgotten that over half of that $64 million came from the opening weekend before the negative word-of-mouth spread, sending the film on a precipitous 76% freefall in its second weekend. THE PURGE had a great concept, one that was ripe for social and political commentary: five years into the future, unemployment and crime are an all-time low, due to the revamped US government, overseen by a group of elected officials known as "The Founding Fathers" having legalized "The Purge," a one-night, 12-hour block of time where all crime, including murder, is legal, thereby allowing everyone to get a year's worth of rage out of their systems and allow society to flourish. It's the kind of dystopian high concept that could've led to an incendiary metaphor for the divisive state of the world today. But writer/director James DeMonaco blew it. After the intriguing set-up, THE PURGE quickly devolved into a rote, run-of-the-mill home invasion thriller, with a well-to-do family led by dad Ethan Hawke and mom Lena Headey under siege by a group of privileged thrill-killers trying to get in their locked-down house after they give shelter to young African-American man.