[Screen It]


(2014) (Frank Grillo, Carmen Ejogo) (R)

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Suspense/Action: Various people must contend with being caught outdoors during a once-a-year, government-sanctioned, 12-hour period where murder and other crimes are legal.
It's the year 2023 and just hours before the commencement of a once-a-year, government-sanctioned, 12-hour period where murder and other crimes are legal. The Founding Fathers government has realized that The Purge releases tension, anger and so on, resulting in the rest of the year being mostly crime free. That doesn't sit well with Carmelo (MICHAEL K. WILLIAMS), a rebel whose rants against the government and The Purge are across the Internet and have drawn the attention of Cali (ZOE SUOL). She's the teenage daughter of single mom Eva (CARMEN EJOGO) who works hard as a waitress trying to make ends meet for them and Cali's grandfather, Papa Rico (JOHN BEASLEY). He dislikes the sound of Carmelo as much as he does the government and thus retires to his bedroom for the night.

Elsewhere, Shane (ZACH GILFORD) and Liz (KIELE SANCHEZ) are debating whether to tell his sister that they're getting separated when they have a run-in with some Purge participants who are chomping at the homicidal bit to get started. Little do Shane and Liz realize that those men have cut their fuel line, thus resulting in their car breaking down in the middle of the city.

They eventually run into Leo (FRANK GRILLO), a divorced cop who's going to use The Purge to get revenge on the man who killed his son but was released from prison on a technicality. Despite that, he's an otherwise decent man who ends up saving Eva and Cali when soldier-like men forcibly remove them from their apartment following a scary run-in with their angry neighbor, Diego (NOEL GUGLIEMI).

With Shane and Liz joining them, the five people try to survive the night and those -- civilian and government-based -- who are participating in The Purge and looking for fresh victims.

OUR TAKE: 5.5 out of 10
There are just 365 days in the year, most of which are spent by the majority of people either going to work or attending school. Thus, besides birthdays and certain anniversaries (where you still might have to work or study), most people welcome holidays since they usually mean time off from the daily grind. Regardless of whether it's New Years or the Fourth of July or any other holiday in between, vast portions of the population are happier on those special days as compared to the "regular" ones.

In the future, however, that might not be the case as one particular "holiday" is enjoyed by some participants, but feared by pretty much everyone else. And that would be The Purge, an annual, 12-hour event where are all crimes, including murder, are forgiven, all designed as a pressure relief valve for society and those who exist within it.

First introduced in the movie of the same name way back in the summer of 2013, the low budget film (reportedly sporting a $3 million budget but grossing more than twenty times that domestically) was about a home security family man (Ethan Hawke) who discovered -- the hard way -- that his home security wasn't, well, secure enough.

Mayhem and murder followed, as did enough viewers at the box office that the powers that be apparently decided to make this an annual event, thus resulting in "The Purge: Anarchy" (presumably because "Return of The Purge" or "The Purge 2: Electric Boogaloo" sounded too much like sequels). Unlike the original that mostly took place indoors, returning writer/director James DeMonaco has moved the action from the inside to the great outdoors, or at least the urban jungle of Los Angeles.

In doing so, the claustrophobic aura of the first film has been replaced by a greater degree of wide-open, "we need to survive on the streets" action. That might remind some viewers of similar films such as Walter Hill's "The Warriors" where a small group of characters must make their way across a city at night and avoid or fight off those who wish to do them harm.

While the overriding idea of The Purge continues to be intriguing from a thematic standpoint, once again I didn't buy into that part of the story, mainly because it doesn't occur in a full-out dystopian setting (like "The Hunger Games") where it would be more believable. And just like the last film, some of the characters here are far too blasť about the pending 12-hour apocalypse and don't give themselves much temporal leeway in terms of getting somewhere and being holed up before the mayhem begins.

Perhaps DeMonaco hasn't ever experienced the near looting that occurs when a winter storm is forecast in areas that don't get a lot of snow, but stores in this neck of the woods are emptied out of milk, bread, toilet paper and snow shovels and salt more than a day in advance of the meteorological event. Here, a soon-to-be-separated couple (Zach Gilford and Kiele Sanchez) are cutting it close while still on the road less than 2 hours before killing time begins.

They end up under the non-offered protection of a cop (Frank Grillo) who's using the event to get some off the books revenge but is sidetracked when he saves a waitress (Carmen Ejogo) and her mouthy teenage daughter (Zoe Suol) from some sort of heavily armed, high-tech equipped gang (lead by a guy in a lab suit that makes him look like an old-fashioned horror movie mad scientist) that wishes to do them harm.

There's also a separate gang of people who are seemingly into skull masks and related face paint, but none of these villains are personified, so we don't know anything about them and they're no more menacing than a rat that crawls up a character's leg in one scene. Yes, they have guns, machetes and such, but the rats could have been so equipped as well, and "The Purge 2: Rats with Machetes" sounds like more fun.

To be fair, the filmmaker does create some decent tension in a few of the set pieces, and we obviously end up rooting for the quintet against the villains, although that's more by simple default than any grand storytelling, performances, dialogue and such. That said, Grillo is good as the usual sort of stoic character who ends up burdened with others he must protect while dispatching the various bad guys and heading toward his goal.

Thankfully not a retread of the first film, this one moves most of the action outdoors and -- despite some credibility problems like before -- is just good enough to earn a slight recommendation for those who like these sorts of pics. "The Purge: Anarchy" rates as a 5 out of 10.

Reviewed July 15, 2014 / Posted July 18, 2014

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