For Your Consideration #2: The Purge: Anarchy (dir by James DeMonaco)


Yes, I know what you’re saying.

“Seriously, Lisa!?  We should give awards consideration to The Purge: Anarchy!?  Are you serious!?”

Yes, actually I am quite serious.  Notice that I didn’t say that we should necessarily give The Purge: Anarchy any awards or that we should even nominate it.  I just said consideration.  For whatever flaws that The Purge: Anarchy may have, it’s actually one of the better and, in its way, one of the more thought-provoking mainstream American films released this year.  Working within the guise of being a simple genre film, The Purge: Anarchy is one of the few films to give serious consideration to the politics and culture that could both lead to and result from dystopia.

What I’m saying is that — despite what the critics may have said last summer — The Purge: Anarchy is actually one of the most subversive and intellectually curious films released this year.  You just have to be willing to look past all of the action conventions and instead focus on the film’s subtext.

The Purge: Anarchy takes place one year after the end of the first Purge film.  America is still led by the New Founding Fathers and every year, for one night, all crime is legal.  As the national media constantly assures everyone, the Purge is responsible for every good thing about America.  And even though there are a few rebels who claim that the Purge is not necessarily a good thing, most people chose to believe that — as long as it’s government-sanctioned — it’s for the best.

Whereas the first Purge film took place solely inside one family’s house and focused on the domestic melodrama within, The Purge: Anarchy focuses on what goes on outside of the gated sanctuaries of the rich.  As quickly becomes apparent, the Purge is less about purging negative feelings and more about keeping the non-rich, non-white population under control.  While the poor kill each other in the streets, the rich pay for the privilege to kill poverty-stricken “volunteers” in the safety of their own homes.  (Some of the volunteers agree to die out of the hope that their family will be sent some money.  Most are just rounded up on the streets, killed, and forgotten.)

Perhaps even more so than the first film, The Purge: Anarchy works because it feels so plausible.  We live in a society where we are continually told that moral rights and wrongs can be determined by man-made laws.  When a man is filmed being literally choked to death by a pack of police officers, we’re told that it was the man’s fault because he was failing to respect authority and many choose to believe it because “the law is the law.”  (Never mind, of course, whether the law is being fairly applied or makes any sense to begin with.)  If a man in uniform is murdered, it’s rightfully called a crime.  If a man in uniform commits a murder, we’re told it’s simply a part of the job.

And so, that’s why I suggest that The Purge: Anarchy deserves greater consideration than it’s been given.  Yes, it is a genre film and yes, it is an installment in an action franchise.  However, it’s also far closer to the truth than many people are willing to acknowledge.

16 responses to “For Your Consideration #2: The Purge: Anarchy (dir by James DeMonaco)

  1. I’m in agreement on you with putting this film “for consideration.” Hell, it should win an award for being one of the most timely films of the year.

    Compared to the first film, this one is literally stripped of anything resembling a main storyline. It’s a film all about exploring the themes of the film’s novel idea. The first film failed in the end because it tried to make the audience sympathize with the very people who would approve of The Purge.

    With Anarchy the film comes off as almost guerrilla filmmaking with cameras following our leads as they try to make it through the night. We find out the agendas of each and everyone, but none of them override the underlying theme of class-warfare at it’s most extreme.

    One can never call me a social justice warrior, but I do understand and recognize what is right and wrong. I think why this film has struck such a resonance with audiences is that most see something similar just over the horizon.

    The ending itself doesn’t even give the audience the sort of full closure they’re used to, but just like real life it shows that a corrupt power structure doesn’t fall overnight.

    I’m interested to see how James DeMonaco goes about continuing what he finally got right with Anarchy.


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  3. I finally watched this the other night, and was pleasantly surprised. Granted, I’m a mark for any dystopian film, so it really wasn’t that hard to rope me in. While I was disappointed with all the separate parties running into each other 20-30 minutes in, I really can’t think of a (reasonable) way to bring all the storylines together otherwise. Definitely eerily prescient.

    I did, however, always have this series pegged as more “horror” than “action.” The last gaps of the “home invasion” sub-genre before it (rightly) gives up the ghost.


    • I think one could see it as action-horror, but yes it is horror at its core. Most films in the dystopian subgenre really has horror as a foundation to build it’s story on. I mean you’re talking about a film where the story hinges on the fact that the world as we know it now is dead and gone. That thought alone puts the subgenre on an existential horror path if there ever was one.

      This is why the general population really do get into dystopian films. It’s a way to look at something we all fear in the safety of a darkened theater. I mean, whether it’s something like The Purge or the latest zombie horror, we all think what would we do if put in such a situation. This is even more evident when it comes to the American psyche. Americans, I count myself as one, like to to believe that we would survive such a calamity. We pride ourselves in our ability to be self-sufficient (though some more in their mind than in practice) and masters of our destiny.

      I think this is why The Purge: Anarchy has been more effective a film as it’s predecessor and why I believe as a horror franchise it has legs for several more entries.


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