Sunday, August 03, 2014

FILM :: The Purge: Anarchy ... a dystopian vision of what happens when laws are relaxed for 12 hours

This sequel to 2013 film The Purge – though I didn’t know it was a sequel until afterwards – is written and directed by James DeMonaco. A bickering couple on verge of separation are driving home to see family. A waitress is hoping for a pay rise that will help her afford the medicine that would help her ailing father.

As everyone heads from work, they say their goodbyes with “Stay safe”. It is 2023 and it’s important to get home to wait out the annual “purge”, a twelve hour period when the relatively new US “regime” suspends most laws and allow citizens to take the law into their own hands with no comeback. For twelve hours the emergency services are withdrawn and it’s every woman and man for themselves.

Supposed to “deal with the epidemic of crime facing the nation”, the purge instead seems to create a yearly cycle of revenge and opportunistic murder, mostly at the expense of the working class who can’t afford to secure themselves from vigilante gangs.

Of course, when the regime suspends lawfulness and grants citizens license to “purge”, what’s to stop the government joining in with impunity?

As visions of dystopian societies go, The Purge: Anarchy is promising. Anarchy fostered by the government, and the makings of a citizen-led revolt to upset the rich-favouring purge.

Unfortunately the philosophy is quickly laid to one side and becomes drowned in the brutal scenes of killing on the streets of Los Angeles. [A bigger scale than Channel 4’s Utopia, but significantly less artistic.] You’ll need to suspend disbelief and not ask whether hospitals are safe and staffed during the 12 hour purge, whether prisons turn into convenient sanctuaries, and what other states and the UN have to say about America’s annual call to arms?

The film quickly shows it true colours as an action adventure that revolves around the gun toting Lea, a man driving through the lawless streets in an armoured car on a mission to avenge his son’s death. Along the way he ends up with the bickering couple, the waitress and her daughter to look after. Will he turn out a hero or an antihero?

If your stomach lasts until the end of this brutal film, you’ll hear the haunting refrain from America the Beautiful breaking through the credits. Perhaps it’s from the second verse?
America! America!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

I can’t help wonder whether the producers were making the point that when the federal government takes the law into its own hands abroad, what is there to stop it entertaining similar measures on its own shores?

Ultimately The Purge: Anarchy is a disappointing film, with an ending the ill-befits the characters. However if gang warfare and families settling scores permanently is your thing, you'll find it showing in cinemas right across the UK and Ireland.

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