“The Purge: Anarchy” is about as subtle as a sledgehammer. And, often, as effective.
The loose sequel to “The Purge” is set in March 2023 at a time when unemployment in America is 5 percent and crime is virtually nonexistent, unless you count the purge. It’s a 12-hour period once a year in which crime, including murder, is legal, and police, fire and medical responders stand down.
The first movie took place in a gated community where a family that could afford an expensive security system thought it would be immune to violence — but, of course, wasn’t. This time around, the story has been literally opened up as five people struggle to survive on the streets of downtown Los Angeles.
A struggling waitress and her daughter (Carmen Ejogo and Zoe Soul) are physically dragged from their apartment, while the car belonging to a young married couple (Zach Gilford and Kiele Sanchez) conks out after being sabotaged. They end up on the run with a well-armed stranger (Frank Grillo) who is prepared to purge and avenge the loss of his young son.
The divide between rich and poor is even more exaggerated this time, as a revolutionary (Michael K. Williams) takes to the Web to puncture the babble and bubble of the “new founding fathers.” The purge is about money, he rails.
“Who dies tonight? The poor.”
Writer-director James DeMonaco’s sequel is violent, speaks to the worst in most people and treats wealth as reason for caricature (complete with racial and religious overtones) and license to treat humans as prey.
But it lets Grillo, an actor who often plays tough guys, bring a convincing no-nonsense grittiness to his character and turns the second-largest city in the country into a nearly deserted location with an end-of-the-world vibe.
The original and sequel both benefit from dehumanizing, disturbing masks that grant some anonymity to the lawless wielding guns, blades or flame throwers. Yes, people are set ablaze, and so are ideas about what people would or could do, if given the chance to — as they say during this sixth annual purge — “release the beast.”
Guess “The Kill Point,” which DeMonaco wrote and produced, just keeps on giving.
THE PURGE: ANARCHY
2 1/2 stars
Starring: Frank Grillo, Carmen Ejogo
Rating: R for strong disturbing violence, and for language.