Grillo’s Gang – ★★★★
A year ago we saw Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey as a family living in suburban America in 2022 during something called “the purge”, which takes place once a year and allows all crime to be legal for one night. It was a clever concept, but the film couldn’t live up to the promise (read my 2-star review here).
And now here we are with a sequel that, if we’re honest, no-one really asked for. The original’s principal cast are all replaced as we move forward in time to spring 2023. We start out with three strands of characters – the mother and daughter (Carmen Ejogo and Zoe Soul) who are trying to stay safe in their downtown apartment, the couple (Zach Gilford and Kiele Sanchez) whose car is attacked as they head to family to wait out the purge and finally, a mysterious loner (Frank Grillo) who seems intent on revenge. Within ten or fifteen minutes, it’ll come as a surprise to no-one that everyone collides, bringing all the pieces together for a solid mission-based script as our gang look to survive the night.
Frank Grillo is a great front man for our troop. In recent years he has excelled in supporting roles in the likes of Warrior, End of Watch and The Grey, but it’s great to see him front and centre here. He manages to find the right balance between mysterious, relatable and tough guy and manages to make the most of a script that has its fair share of cliché lines. 2014 is likely to be a year to remember for him following on from his part in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
The central message in play is that rich, white people are OK during the purge while the tired, poor, huddled masses are all at risk. The film makes pretty far-out allusions to the civil rights movement of the 1960s with a guy who looks a little like a Blank Panther/Malcolm X hybrid leading a revolutionary group against the annual bloodbath. It’s not 100 miles away from the type of thing we see referenced in The Hunger Games, only this time there’s a 16 rating (“R” in the US) and a lot more violence and blood in play.
The edit goes for the “stylised” option in Final Cut Pro and there are plenty of unnecessary “bad-ass slow-mo” shots which probably add on an extra five minutes the run-time clock. It also often feels more like a computer game structure with the characters giving simple deadlines and goals with rewards on offer if they’re successful. But if you’re feeling a tiny little braindead and willing to buy into this world, then The Purge: Anarchy is a really solid genre film that knows exactly what it wants to be.
So even though no one wanted the film, it seems that it has surprised everyone and has become the rare example of a sequel that betters the original. It’s got the same writer/director but manages to feel like a solid upgrade in all departments.
Released across Ireland on July 25th 2014
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