I am sick to fucking death of critics who feel like they have to qualify their reviews. If I read another, “Well, it’s dumb, but fun” review I just may burn the internet down. Especially when contrasted with the glowing reviews of this summer’s horribly scripted Dawn of the Planet of the Apes; a movie that spent $170 million to make a CGI wonderland but apparently forgot to hire a script doctor. Who needs a good script when you’ve got the CG spectacle of apes riding horses and firing automatic weapons? Which brings us to The Purge: Anarchy. This is the most John Carpenter movie that John Carpenter never made. There was never any doubt that Writer/Director James DeMonaco (who also scripted the 2005 remake of Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13) would be back for another dive into the future America of The Purge after the first film brought in $64 and a half million domestic and another $25 million overseas with a production budget of $3 million (that’s nearly 30 times its budget for those not mathematically inclined). And that was a film that didn’t try to do much more than reframe your run-of-the-mill home invasion horror with a bluntly direct socio-political message (here’s my review of that one, by the way). Now, with triple the budget of the first film, DeMonaco has put together a B-Movie that captures the feel of classics like Escape from New York, The Warriors, and They Live for a new generation. Here’s the setup, for those not familiar. In the near future, a fundamentalist political group (modeled on the Tea Party) has taken power in an America crushed by crime, unemployment, and general decay. They’ve established The Purge, and annual 12-hour free-for-all, where there are no laws. Anything you do during those twelve hours will not be punishable, except for a few minor caveats that keep higher ranking elected officials off-limits and making sure no weapons or explosives above a certain level are included. You know, the sort of things that would stand up to the military or a militarized police force. So if you’ve got the money to defend yourself, your home, and your family, you just hunker down for the night and hope that the Purging contains itself to the inner cities. Or, if you’ve got the money to buy weapons, you just might take it upon yourself to “release the beast” inside you with a religious fervor, purging your violent impulses in one night of chaos that is celebrated and promoted as your “holy” right. Or if that doesn’t float your boat, and you’ve got enough money, you can hire people to either martyr themselves to you (for the future benefit of the families they leave behind), or you can hire people to bring you victims to hunt and kill. The first film focused on jealousies in an upper-class neighborhood, establishing that it wasn’t just about race or class, but about social inequalities of all sorts, even simple envy. But it was also about race and class. This time we are taken out into the world on Purge night to witness first-hand what people are getting up to in the name of religious cleansing and making a buck. Again, it’s about race and class, utilizing similar masked hunters as the first film — along with a few other paranoias brought to life. We have Shane (Zach Gilford) and Liz (Kiele Sanchez), a middle-class couple in the midst of a breakup being hunted and terrorized by scary black men in masks, we have Eva (Carmen Ejogo) and her daughter Cali (Zoë Soul) being hunted and terrorized by scary soldiers in black, and then we have Sergeant (Frank Grillo) who just wants to get across town so he can murder the man who killed his son in a drunk driving accident, but got away due to a technicality. Because Sergeant isn’t a bad guy, just an emotionally damaged revenge-seeker (and who doesn’t love revenge films?), he finds himself unable to stand by while paramilitary forces attempt to murder Eva and Cali. Shane and Liz, barely surviving the sabotage of their car, also hook up with Sergeant, and the race is on, with both the hunters and the soldiers now converging on them as they try to find someplace safe. There’s plenty of mayhem and madness (along with a seemingly unlimited supply of bullets) as Frank Grillo makes Sergeant his own. He approaches the role with the same swagger Kurt Russell brought to Snake Plisken, but substituting sarcasm with a touch of the tragic that Snake never felt. To be honest, all the performers nail their roles, which is what really elevates this material above the more clichéd elements. You know Shane and Liz are going to get back together before all is said and done, but by then, they’re no longer just privileged and self-involved. They’ve proven themselves worthy of saving — and where the film leaves Liz when all’s said and done, was very interesting. Eva and Cali are the moral center of the film, and their influence on Sergeant provides a few surprises along the way. John Beasley, in his brief appearance as Papa Rico was nearly perfect, bringing nobility and honor to his self-sacrifice. And Jack Conley as the enigmatic Big Daddy was frighteningly iconic with his aviator sunglasses, American flag ball cap, and butcher’s apron as he stood behind his massive truck-mounted machine gun. The biggest and best surprise of the film, though, was the appearance of Michael K. Williams as the revolutionary Carmelo, raging against the system that solved unemployment by sanctioning the murder of the poor for one night a year. It was almost impossible to not yell “Omar coming, yo!” in the theater when he shows up and starts blowing evil rich people away. You don’t have to justify liking The Purge: Anarchy. It’s straight-up enjoyable. I don’t give a shit if you don’t think all rich people are evil, or religious fundamentalism isn’t dangerous, or even that there’s no way one night of lawlessness would reign in crime so totally the rest of the year. You probably think sealing off New York and making it a prison is a stupid idea, or that upper-class aliens couldn’t really subliminally control the poor, or that rival gangs with colorful theme costumes wouldn’t really hunt each other through the city for misguided revenge. The idea that we, as critics, have to justify ourselves and our movie-going pleasures, or qualify our reviews, is just insulting. The Purge: Anarchy kicks all kinds of ass and falls right in line with classic B-movie action/sci-fi/horror films. John Carpenter would be proud. The Purge: Anarchy (2014)4.0Overall ScoreShare this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... 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