Home-invasion thriller The Purge took a darkly satirical leap by imagining a near-future dystopian America in which all crime, including murder, is legal for one night a year.
In writer-director James DeMonaco’s 2013 film, this terrifying 12 hours of mayhem, sanctioned by a totalitarian US government’s ‘New Founding Fathers’ as a safety valve for society, proved a nightmare for Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey’s well-heeled householders, who found themselves besieged within their gated community by bloodthirsty, mask-wearing yuppies after giving sanctuary to a homeless man.
For sequel The Purge: Anarchy, set a year after the original film in 2023, DeMonaco opens up the action and deepens the satire. This time the story’s linchpin is Frank Grillo’s nameless Sergeant, who starts off intending to use Purge night for personal revenge – targeted at the drunk driver who killed his son.
However, he ends up as the reluctant protector of four helpless people caught outdoors when the violence gets underway, a Hispanic waitress (Carmen Ejogo) and her daughter (Zoë Soul), and a married couple (Zach Gifford, Kiele Sanchez) whose car has been sabotaged.
Over the course of the night, the quintet run the gauntlet of street gangs in league with upper-class sadists and crews of paramilitary thugs with an even more ruthless agenda. The ensuing scenes of flight and fight are thrilling, but the bigger picture that slowly emerges of a world in which the rich remorselessly prey on the poor is scarier still.
And, with a third Purge film already in the pipeline, it’s clear that DeMonaco is telling us something rather pointed about the widening divide between haves and have-nots in contemporary society, too.
Certificate 15. Runtime 101 mins. Director James DeMonaco.