Care for an entertaining fleeting dose of action packed cinema this summer! Welcome to the land of the purge, where people get 12 hours to set free all their animalistic demons and unleash evil on the streets. DeMonaco assembles a new cast of characters for this second go around in a series that is likely to only grow with the coming years. Ethan Hawke anchored 2013’s original, and while it made a ridiculous premise stand up inside a home invasion setting, the ending left more to be desired. The Purge: Anarchy delivers on the promise of the original by taking the action to the streets and putting the badass better than ever Frank Grillo at the center of the action.
Grillo is a re-invigorated 51 year old action hero dropped into a plot that suits all his strengths. You have noticed him stealing scenes in films for the past few years. The trainer in Warrior, the sergeant in End of Watch and the wandering ex-con in Joe Carnahan’s captivating survival flick, The Grey. Grillo plays Leo, a man hitting the streets for a different kind of purge. Leo wants to cleanse his soul of deadly revenge, and when he stops to help a group of innocents on the verge of slaughter, he picks up the film and carries it for the entire running time.
In case you haven’t heard, Grillo was born to play Frank Castle, the Punisher, one of the roles Hollywood still hasn’t done right in two attempts. As my colleague, Max Foizey, proclaimed after the credits, “The Punisher was dropped into The Purge.” That is basically the ticking heartbeat of this film. Grillo unplugged!
DeMonaco isn’t writing Shakespeare here and wisely fills the cast with the typical parts in order to keep the fast paced film’s engine oiled and running. A desperate mother struggling to keep her innocent daughter safe and a young couple who catch the wrong kind of luck at a grocery store make for easy story developing angles. The evil is provided by masked kidnappers taking civilians and delivering them to auctions. A sadistic mad man in the back of a semi-truck with a monstrous machine gun is brought to vivid life by the legendary character actor, Jack Conley.
DeMonaco is smart this time and takes the action to the streets where anything is possible and terror lurks at every corner. With a group of ragtag individuals coming together for safe passage, this provides the film with plenty of thrills. His writing is decent and the direction keeps the camera and action moving. One thing a viewer can be confident in is seeing a writer/director at work is a confidence that can’t be taught. This guy has finally grasped what it takes to make people jump in their seats for the right reasons. The first film took itself too seriously and relied on painful gimmicks. The sequel pits a convincing hero at the center and lets him carry the film. DeMonaco also keeps the chilling aspect alive with horrific imagery and dark symbolism. In the end, it doesn’t take away from the general idea of this production. The Purge: Anarchy is fun and entertaining without taking itself too serious. This movie is a cheeseburger at a sexy looking diner that hits the spot.
The film belongs to Grillo and his dependable gritty performance elevates the film. After a long career of making a lot out of a little, Grillo gets the big story arc in a studio film and he’s great at it. Leo has an agenda and the length at which he will go to in order to succeed is the backbone of the film.
All the Purge series really needed was a dose of Grillo. A full bodied action star with an authenticity that can’t be taught in a film class coupled with room to stretch his legs. I walked out of the film with a smile on my face because it was everything I wanted it to be walking in. Carefree thrilling action held together by Grillo.