Bigger scope, worse dialogue, but a lot more fun than its predecessor.
2013's The Purge had a unique and intriguing premise: an idea with potential for dark social commentary and interesting claims about human nature. Unfortunately, it never fully capitalized on its concept, and instead turned into a much more conventional home-invasion movie. One of the most common complaints was that its limited scope inside one house made it uninteresting.
The Purge: Anarchy attempts to correct this, expanding its scope and placing new characters into more exciting locations: the streets of LA. Now we can see how different citizens react to the purge, from hiding at home, selling their services as protection, to donning masks reminiscent of The Strangers to terrorize victims.
This sequel is set one year after the events of the original film: the night of the 6th Annual Purge. For one night each year, the government has sanctioned all crimes, including murder, in an apparent effort to lower the crime rate. Rebellious groups, however, argue that the real purpose is to kill off the poor. In this movie, five strangers are stranded outside in the middle of LA after the purge commences, and they must work together to survive the night.
Director James DeMonaco returns for the second movie, once again showing a knack for delivering intriguing premises without fleshing out interesting characters or writing realistic dialogue. The visuals are also pretty muddled, with many scenes taking place in rooms so dark it can be hard to distinguish the characters. He also doesn't capitalize on the opportunity for horror in the film, including only one or two jump scares and unrealistic CGI bloodshed.
Frank Grillo (Brock Rumlow in Captain America 2) stars as Sergeant, the stoic and mysterious leader of the strangers. He is far and away the most interesting character of the bunch, and so it's fitting that he must ultimately make the pivotal choice. Most other actors are serviceable, but few particularly stand out.
The exception is a late, if expected, arrival by Michael K. Williams (The Wire). William's brief appearance as the profane, outspoken leader of an underground revolution is pretty much the highlight of the movie, and I wish we had gotten to see more him.
What work best are the moments of satire, when class conflicts are magnified to extreme levels. Sure, the portrayal of the upperclass is exaggerated, but it sure as hell makes it satisfying when the elite get their due punishment. At a few points, deaths of antagonists were cheered on by the decently engaged crowd.
While it's certainly entertaining, it doesn't stack up to the other recent sci-fi movie set in the future about class warfare: Snowpiercer. Snowpiercer is a much more ambitious and unique take on similar subject matter, and I recommend finding it on VOD over paying to see The Purge: Anarchy in theaters.
Ultimately The Purge: Anarchy corrects many of the mistakes of its predecessor, expanding its scope to deliver interesting satire on class disparity and warfare. While the dark visuals and unrealistic dialogue leave something to be desired, the movie is still fun and entertaining.