Thursday, July 17, 2014

Livin’ the Dream: A Review of The Purge: Anarchy

Like apple pie, freedom, and moonshine, the The Purge: Anarchy proclaims itself “An American Tradition”, but follows an even greater heritage. From Greek tragedians to today’s blockbusters and Michael Bay-hem, it follows the tradition of catharsis, the cleansing or restoration of one’s self from a release of emotion. A purge, if you will. You know how you watch Marley and Me and you cry yourself to sleep like a baby and feel like victory the next day? Now that’s a purge. That’s catharsis. The film itself may have poor acting. The actors may have little substance to work with. But alongside this, there are a few societal complaints and whines, as well as some satisfying violence. By god that is American. That is cathartic.

Anarchy establishes its delicious premise within the first few frames, a near future in which the US and its inhabitants are no longer held against any form of law or control (with the exception of a few “convenient” ones) for a full, party hardy 12 hours a year; this is a speculative and fun premise wholly appropriate for today’s skeptical, bitter, and vengeful United States of America. I mean, you know it sounds satisfying to do what you wish for once. I know it sounds satisfying to do what I wish for once. It sounds… cathartic. How convenient. Shortly after this we are introduced to different groups of people and their individual struggles and stereotypes, all too excitedly thrown together, a hastily made time-bomb in anticipation for a cathartic explosion. The two out-of-touch lovers, the struggling mother and fiery youth, and the loner with a mysterious past, aptly named Sergeant. Through plot devices and broken cars these characters are brought together during the hours of the annual purge where they must survive total anarchy in the city, and the demons within themselves. The sequel succeeds in taking the first film’s premise out of the security of one family’s home and placing it under fire amongst the streets exploring some valid and poignant social commentary. With anarchy comes unfiltered questions and truth.

American’s entitlements are brought into question. Entitlement to safety. Entitlement for possession, control, freedom. Entitlement for vengeance. With a lack of rules and a whole playground, many characters show no limits to acquire their self-proclaimed entitlements. This highlights recent developmental conflicts within our own society. Familiar phrases as “gun-control”, “self-defense”, and “death penalty” certainly come to mind. Division of class within the country, the fear of classism, profiteering on militarism and violence, government control and sinister agendas are also play toys picked up by the writers; however, it is never apparent which toy becomes “the favorite”.

Such intelligent queries are weighed down by the forced and lackluster character drama, and equally average over-acting from the film’s cast. Nothing new is presented on behalf of the character cut-outs, and there are moments of dialogue so poor, the writing becomes embarrassingly laughable. This is redeemed, however, by the vivid, visceral hyper-violence and thoroughly gratifying gun-slinging. There is satisfaction, catharsis, that choreography and death brings forth in this film. Because America.

Anarchy follows the American dream. With smart societal ponderings, mediocre meandering of the characters and their actors, and the thrilling violence, the film wants to be everything. And like America, with its reticles aimed high, it achieves just a little bit of something. Character drama? Meh. Snarky sci-fi dystopia? Maybe. Action-thriller? Just maybe.

If you like smart sci-fi: raise your hopes for another one this year. If you are an unfulfilled vigilante wanna-be seeking wish fulfillment: This is your shit. If you are looking for a fun summer “R” film, this is worth a shot. There is a point in the film when one of the faceless protagonists exclaims “Fuck it,” as he pick up a gun and joins the anarchistic chaos. Take it as a guide. I certainly took it to mind.

I give it 3.5 out of 5 America Hell-yeahs.

By Ross Carpenter
for MOVEMENT Magazine

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