By KIMBERLY GRANT
Special to South Florida Times
The evening that I saw the first Purge film, I couldn’t sleep. I kept thinking about a world where killing people was considered a God-given right as an American and the callousness with which people worshipped killing others to “release the beast,” otherwise known as a night, where people use a cultish excuse for being evil human beings. Despite many filmgoers, like myself, not being fully impressed with the premise and my complete misgivings about such a dystopian world, I think it’s a pretty well-written film and provokes a lot of thought about what constitutes moral ambiguity when it comes to murder.
For those unfamiliar with the films, the premise is that the United States (in the near future), stricken with devastating poverty, has created a new government where the president is called a “Founding Father” and every citizen is granted one night where they can commit any crime they like and not be penalized for it. That night is called “the Purge”, because people use it to kill others as a way of purging their hate/sadness/envy.
Where the first Purge film wanted its audience members to feel bad for the rich white people, the next installment of the franchise (that is what it will be, right?), The Purge: Anarchy, looks at that awful night from the perspective of the poor and underserved. What happens when they have to get through the night?
Written and directed by James DeMonaco, the same man who wrote the first film, this Purge feels more suspenseful. Knowing how things can get pretty dicey very quickly puts audiences on the edge of their seats, scared for the characters who have to face off yet another gun/machete-wielding psycho. It also sticks to DeMonaco’s formula: a group of good people trying not to be purged, a family sticking together, an equal amount of machetes and guns, and a last-minute, unexpected save from an unlikely, yet likely, source.
Without ruining the plot of the sequel – which is another set of people must survive the 12 hours of hell, also known as the Annual Purge – it’s safe to say that DeMonaco has a way with filmmaking and knows his material through-and-through. But The Purge: Anarchy is way more than just a good film.
With these Purge films, DeMonaco has brought about some fears of what those foreign to this country view Americans to be. Do they see us as violent maniacs who use their patriotism to do evil things? He also raises the question of whether there is a good reason to kill. The answer: no. Lastly, he shows a world, not too
dissimilar from the world in which we live today, where the rich control everything from the guns to protection to the lives of people who aren’t as well-off.
The “family members” in this Purge are Leo (Frank Grillo); Eva (Carmen Ejogo); Eva’s daughter Cali (Zoe Soul); Shane (Zach Gilford); Shane’s wife Liz (Zach’s real-life wife Kiele Sanchez). These five face a lot of obstacles, plus they are sold into a purge party.
Michael K. Williams’ character, Carmelo, an anti-purge extremist who is trying to reach the masses to let them know what the purge is really about, touches on the most important point of the film: the purge is about money.
The reason why the crime and unemployment rates are down is because the origins of the purge were clearly linked to the violence played out on one underserved person to another. To be un-PC, you readers would call it “black on black crime.” The wealthy don’t have to worry about exterminating the low class. They can just sanction a government holiday where the low class take care of the dirty work themselves. Likewise, with so many people being murdered during the purge, there are less people to fight to get jobs.
In all truths, for this critic, The Purge:Anarchy is a scary allegory of what things like drugs, the prison pipeline system, and failing public school education are doing to the lower class communities of color today. The wealthy aren’t actually wielding the guns that kill. They’re just making sure the guns end up in the “right hands” – for murder.
While this film and its predecessor are hard to watch at times and produce a tremendous amount of nail-biting, it is irrefutable that it is worth a watch. If for nothing else than to place a mirror on ourselves to see what we are doing to contribute to the genocide of our people.