Tuesday, July 8, 2014

'The Purge: Anarchy' review

Good horror movies are rare these days and I have to say that I'm getting sick of it. The Conjuring was a brilliant film, but nine out of ten times, horror movies are not good. I was mildly excited going into The Purge: Anarchy. I've always been intrigued by the idea of these films and I wasn't plagued by memories of the first film like so many other moviegoers were (I never got to see it). That being said, within five minutes I knew that this movie was going to be bad. And it was. The Purge: Anarchy is a nonsensical, idiotic slog that has laughably bad dialogue, uninteresting characters, a paper-thin plot and a questionable moral compass. It tries really hard to be a good movie, but it's too depraved to be campy and way too stupid to be serious. If this film decided to be a serious thriller, it might be interesting, but it just doesn't fully commit. It just ends up being a predictable, tired mess.

This film has an almost non-existent story and there's barely any character development, but the main plot is this. Sergeant (Frank Grillo) is a "purger" who wants to go out and avenge his son's death. Eva and Cali (Carmen Ejogo and Zoe Soul) are ordinary citizens who end up in danger when armed men break into their apartment. And Shane and Liz (Zach Gilford and Kiele Sanchez) are also ordinary people who get stuck out on the streets when their car breaks down. The three parties collide when Sergeant saves Eva and Cali from the armed men. After that, Shane and Liz sneak into Sergeant's car and everybody's stuck together. They all end up fending for themselves on the streets during the annual Purge. 

Anarchy's main pitch is that it takes place in the streets. You get to be up close and personal with all of the violence and there definitely is a lot. This is a brutal film and it's also a bleak, disturbing film. However, it seems to embrace the violence. During the beginning of the Purge, we see slow-motion shots of people with axes and guns. You really don't get the sense that the filmmakers are trying to condemn this violence. But at the same time, they try to bring politics into this and there's the obligatory 99% vs. 1% subplot and a generic revolutionary group that wants to end the Purge. It denounces the violence while also reveling in the insanity. The morals of this film are very muddy and it ends up being a problem. Anarchy wants to condemn the idea of the Purge while also being like- "You can kill whoever you want. ISN'T THIS AWESOME?"

Even though I found the morals of this film to be incredibly questionable and very disturbing, that's not even the big problem with this movie. The biggest problem with the The Purge: Anarchy is that it's an ignorant film. Ignorant from start to finish. The characters are underdeveloped and stupid. Literally I did not care about any of these characters. The dialogue is horrendous. None of it is believable and it's all just awful. Also, there are so many unintentionally hilarious moments in this movie. I laughed throughout at the stupidity of the characters and I also laughed at the super-obvious jump-scares. You still jump, but you can tell that it's coming from a mile away. It said a lot about how poor this film was when a character was killed at the end and people laughed because the timing was so horrible. The filmmaking is very poor on a basic level.

The acting is not any better. Granted, the script is annoying and every character is a cliched imbecile, but these actors could have done much better. I liked Frank Grillo in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. He has a great screen presence and is quite frightening. But I didn't care about his character in this one. Grillo is really the only big-name actor in this movie, which says a lot. All of the other actors are either hamming it up or acting stupid. There are no good performances in this movie.

A good movie can't exist without a good script or at least a solid directorial vision and a good story. The Purge: Anarchy has none of the above. The film has some of the most obvious dialogue in film history. None of it is funny or interesting. None of it gives you any insight into the characters. All of it is there just to advance the plot. Also, there is no story. This movie is literally people running around Los Angeles while everything that could go wrong goes wrong. Character development is non-existent, the story is predictable, and the characters make terrible decisions.

Let's talk about these decisions (spoilers may follow, but honestly, you won't care). At the beginning of this film, Liz and Shane stop at a grocery store to get some food. Why? It's never made clear. But let me throw this into the equation: the annual Purge only lasts for 12 hours. Why would you need to stop to get groceries? It's not like you're going to be in your house for a week! Later, a gang of Purgers kidnap our protagonists and we're led to believe that they're going to kill them. However, one of the gang members informs them that they're not going to kill them. Instead, the gang is going to sell them to the rich and make a lot of money. There's one huge problem with this. The Purge is a night where all crime is legal. Why wouldn't you just go rob a friggin' bank?! Some of the things in this movie are so incredibly ludicrous, it made me want to yell at the screen.

I will give the filmmakers credit for creating a general sense of dread at times throughout the movie. It is a somewhat frightening movie occasionally and there is a palpable sense of dread throughout the film. A night where all crime is legal is pretty scary and it's a great concept that would really make for a great movie if the film was made by a director who knew how to make a good movie. Also, there's one really great scene in an apartment that has a great tone. But the filmmakers ruin the scariness of this film with the laughable plot and the useless attempt at a message. There are no character arcs and you really only learn the basics about many of the characters.

This movie is also so predictable. Insanely predictable. Every time there was a jump scare, it was obvious that a jump scare was coming. There were only one or two scenes that actually were frightening. Other than that, you were just waiting for the next jump scare or the next time that someone would randomly get shot. It was so obvious. Also, anytime that the characters get into trouble, there's no real sense of "Are they going to make it?" Of course they are, because some guy with a gun will just come out and shoot the person who's trying to kill them. It's so convenient. There's also a revolutionary group introduced in the beginning of the movie, and you know that they're going to join the action eventually. Anarchy is just an annoyingly predictable film.

Another weird thing about this movie was the tendency to have random characters shout obscenities/speeches about how "purging" is their right. It was flat-out bizarre. One time, the filmmakers just cut to a scene where a woman with a machine gun shouts on a roof while killing random civilians below. Just plain weird and unnecessary.

The Purge: Anarchy is an atrocious, heaping pile of crap. I laughed more than I screamed at this movie. There was nothing really scary. All of it was just surprising. I was just sitting there in the theater, waiting to be surprised again. There were a few good scenes and some cool action, but a lot of the violence was gross, disturbing and morally ambiguous and the attempted political scenes added nothing to the film. It just complicated the film's moral compass. If you find watching random people get shot amusing, you might like this film. But that doesn't change the fact that this movie flat-out sucks.

THE FINAL GRADE:  D                                              (4.3/10)

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