(On Cable TV, June 2015) Even after two movies in which to explain themselves, I still think that the very premise of The Purge series is nonsensical, perhaps even moronic. Twenty-hours of unpunishable violence? Yeah, I’m sure that’s going to solve problems. Still, even the least impressed reviewers will admit that The Purge: Anarchy goes much farther in fulfilling its ambitions than its prequel: Writer/Director James DeMonaco at least has the guts to try something more challenging. While the first film was a glorified home-invasion horror movie, the sequel is a pure thriller, much of it spent running in order to avoid the violence of The Purge. Carmen Ejogo and Zoe Soul make for a compelling mother-daughter pair of protagonists stuck in a bad situation. Still, they can’t do much to raise the level of a film content in hitting the same targets with unsubtle bluntness. Its attempts at social conscience (in acknowledging the The Purge weeds out the weak to the benefit of the powerful) don’t seem particularly well-developed, once again mistreating a high-possibilities premise into nothing much more than a pretext for ludicrous suspense. While The Purge: Anarchy works on a basic thrill-machine level, it quickly becomes frustrating as soon as we have time to start asking questions.
(On Cable TV, September 2013) I hate it when an intriguing premise ends up leading to a strictly routine result. While The Purge‘s premise is nonsensical (“Let’s allow all crime for the next 12 hours! That’ll be sure to solve some problems rather than create more!”), it’s different enough to demand attention. Unfortunately, the premise merely leads to a standard home-invasion thriller, as forced as it is dull. I suppose I should be impressed by the way the big premise leads to a single-location low-budget movie with a small cast, but the lack of connection between the vast ambitions and narrative possibilities of The Purge‘s imagined future and the ordinary thriller that it expresses. Big ideas about animalistic urges, fascist states, retribution and repercussions are hardly glanced in a script that doesn’t quite know what to do with what it has at its disposal. Execution-wise, Ethan Hawke is once again wasted in a role that could have suited a multitude of other actors, while writer/director James DeMonaco doesn’t do much better as a director than as a screenwriter: The Purge is filled with sequences that could have been quite a bit better, had there been a bigger budget or a better imagination at hand. Maybe someone will re-make it in a decade or two, and we’ll see a better take on the premise.