The follow up to The Purge starts 1 year after first film with the date explicitly stated but we aren’t entirely sure why this matters. After all, the only links between the 2 films are the concept of the Purge and one character who makes a very brief appearance here. Maybe it is to emphasise the fact that the second film was released the year after the first.
Anarchy abandons the intimate enclosed setting of the first for the wide open streets. It is more Escape from New York or The Warriors than Silent House. Like Alien and Aliens the first film is an elegantly crafted claustrophobic thriller while the second is a sprawling macho gun-fest. While both are entertaining I can’t help but feel that the second has sacrificed much of the elegance of the first.
We are introduced to a lot of characters in a confusing mishmash of a first 30 minutes. In contrast to first film which followed one well prepared and rich family, this one focuses on several disparate groups of the unprepared; poor people who can only afford to barricade their doors with wood, homeless people with no doors to barricade, people unexpectedly stranded with no supplies. The film cuts between some of these groups as the purge hour approaches and continues to do so somewhat haphazardly during the early stages of the purge itself. Only once they eventually meet up does the style settle down a bit.
Although concentrating again on people trying to survive the Purge we are given much more of a glimpse of some purgers and see some of their motivations and desires that were missing from the first film (that absence isn’t necessarily a bad thing in the first film though, it fits with the isolated horror vibe). It would have been nice to concentrate on purgers a bit more but mostly they are restricted to shallow caricatures; rapists, murderers, corrupt officials and rich elites overindulging, poor people binging on violence as a way to escape their normal lives.
The main characters spend lots of time walking about in the middle of wide, well lit streets presenting perfect targets. When they meet up with someone who seems to know what they are doing they start taking more care but they still hang around with big targets on their heads at times when they should be sneaking and hiding. Still, this guy who supposedly is the key to everyone’s salvation actually drives his car head on at a mini gun! Even though the car is armoured that’s pretty dumb and he had plenty of options, the most effective of which would have been to shoot the gunner before he could fire which he had ample time to do. But the plot needed the car to get shot up and the gunner to survive so magically the hero is an idiot for 5 minutes.
Partly I think that this is the director or editor’s fault though. The action requires the very fast car to drive less than 100m straight at the gunner and then turn sharp left. This should only take a few seconds. However the scene is filmed as if they spend a long time driving sideways on to the gun at quite low speed. It takes so long that I’m pretty sure the gunner would have had to reload outside of film land. Later the hero excuses his stupidity by remarking that the gun had armour piercing rounds.
This film goes a lot more religious in tone with many people praying to the government and the idea of the purge before killing. Unaccountably their victims never seem to take this opportunity to fight back or make a run for it. It is like all the participants whichever side they find themselves on have respect for the rules. There is also a lot more political comment with the Purge being presented as a way for the corrupt government to cull the poor population to relieve the strain on state resources while the rich sit safely in their fortified houses.
The film tries to cram a lot of stuff in and some of the early scenes feel a little out of place. As you get further through the film it becomes clear that these earlier scenes are there to introduce concepts that are used later on. This isn’t really necessary and feels like the film is patronising the viewer a bit like we wouldn’t understand if there hadn’t been an awkward earlier scene explaining it.
Much like the first film, most of the action is left to the men and to one man in particular. While the women do get to do a little more than wait around to be rescued by the guys this time, it is still clearly male dominated territory and mostly the women are relegated to the role of providing something for the men to protect or fight over.
In both this and the first film we are informed that “Weapons of Class 4 and below” are authorised for use during the Purge. We aren’t given much information about what weapons this might refer to though. After 2 films, we can surmise that it includes hand to hand weapons of all sorts, as well as pistols, shotguns, rifles, assault rifles, machine guns, flame throwers and even miniguns among many others. What doesn’t seem to be acceptable though is explosives. When at one point a relatively harmless flashbang grenade is used, a recorded message is played informing the use that they will be prosecuted after the Purge. No indication of what the punishment may be is given but I assume it is pretty harsh since this is the only time across 2 films that anything like this happens.
Once again at the end, all the surviving participants calmly put away their weapons and walk away when the ending siren sounds.
Many times during the film I was yelling at the stupidity of the characters and it goes a bit overboard on the moralising and the social and political commentary but overall I enjoyed watching this film. Although the characters don’t get a lot of development, I really started to care whether they survived and achieved their goals.