When I was 6 years old, I visited my grandparents’ house while they were riveted to CSPAN coverage of the growing scandal embroiling then-President Bill Clinton. Curious about what could possibly be so interesting, I asked everyone I came across who Monica Lewinsky was and what Clinton had done.
Just because I knew vague terms relating to what was happening in the headlines did not mean I was qualified to talk intelligently about political issues. The same is true of “The Purge: Anarchy,” the sequel to last summer’s surprise horror hit. This film, which went from studio greenlight to the multiplex in little over a year, tries to fool you into thinking it has some intellectual to say about contemporary society.
In reality, though, its social commentary isn’t half as deep as the ridiculous plot holes that mire the proceedings. If the premise – all crime becomes legal for one night to ensure harmony for the other 364 – felt absurdly simple in “The Purge,” imagine a film where the studio puts the writer on such a time and money crunch that there’s no real time to think it through. That’s “The Purge: Anarchy” in a nutshell.
Writer/director James DeMonaco really runs with the spirit of 2011, creating a film that would make many an Occupy member giddy with its vitriol directed towards the one percent. He hints at tackling gun violence, economic inequality, and corporate control of government, but he’s incapable of forming a coherent thought about any of them.
Perhaps most tellingly of how facile “The Purge: Anarchy” really is, DeMonaco completely collapses the issue of class conflict into race war. The rich are all white, and the poor are almost entirely black (and are led by a Samuel L. Jackson impersonator). While race is undeniably a large part of discussions of social status, it cannot account for it entirely. By discounting all other factors, DeMonaco squanders a chance to get his audience thinking about pressing questions.
It’s not likely they would do so, anyways, given how ridiculously the rest of the film plays out. The proletariat protagonists are all too simple to elicit sympathy or our worry for their survival. The rich villains, in DeMonaco’s rush to indict them, turn out to be little more than parodic figures. The storyline does nothing to expand up on the original; in fact, “The Purge: Anarchy” really only serves to dumb down the future franchise so the films can be churned out like Big Macs. C /