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Friday, 19 September 2014

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - The Purge: Anarchy

Directed by: James DeMonaco

Produced by: James Blum
Andrew Form
Bradley Fuller
Sebastien Lemercier
Michael Bay

Screenplay by: James DeMonaco

Starring: Frank Grillo
Carmen Ejogo
Zach Gilford
Kiele Sanchez
Michael K. Williams
Zoe Soul

Music by: Nathan Whitehead

Cinematography by: Jacques Jouffret

Editing by: Todd E. Miller

Studio(s): Blumhouse Productions
Platinum Dunes

Distributed by: Universal Pictures

Release date(s): July 18, 2014 (United States)
July 25, 2014 (United Kingdom)

Running time: 103 minutes

Country: United States

Language: English

Production budget: $9 million

Box-office revenue (as of publication): $106, 624, 724

Excursions, excursions, excursions, that's all there seems to be, alongside the many excuses piling up as regards to my slow rate of productivity for this year on the blog. Truthfully, as I've said before, I've had a wild busy few months over the summer at work which has continued on into September when I'm not on holiday. Speaking of which, I spent last weekend three nights in the wonderful town of Carcassone in the South of France. It's not exactly one of these places like Paris or Nice with the hustle and bustle of a booming nightlife, however, if you want a pleasant, relaxing time to enjoy a vacation (a well-needed one in my case, to paraphrase Arnie), by all means I'd thoroughly recommend it. It's not costly, the scenery, architecture and landscape is gorgeous and it has a serene atmosphere. Now, on movie matters, along with this, I've guaranteed reviews for Hector And The Search For Happiness, The Expendables 3 and Lucy on the back-burner, and no doubt I'll see more before the month closes, so, for all the latest and greatest regarding the movies, keep your eyes posted!

Today's film up for review is The Purge: Anarchy, the sequel to last year's The Purge, which despite being highly profitable was met negatively by critics. I myself had mixed feelings about the picture, but thought it a decent horror flick that had a terrific central concept going for it, which does bring up some interesting moral quandaries, was well-shot by cinematographer Jacques Jouffret (who, along with writer-director James DeMonaco, returns for this instalment) and boasted a great lead performance from Ethan Hawke. Unlike the first film, which was essentially a home-invasion movie, this time the premise has been changed up a bit: it is March 21, 2023, hours before the annual Purge, where for twelve hours (19.00-to-07.00) all crime is declared legal and emergency services cease to operate, an event which been declared responsible for the reduction of crime due it's cathartic impact on citizens, but instead it rather is a form of human population control, with certain weapons (explosives and destructive devices) declared exempt, as are government officials holding rank 10 or higher. Eva Sanchez (Carmen Ejogo), a waitress, rushes home to her daughter Cali (Zoe Soul) and father Papa Rico (John Beasley) to lockdown for The Purge. However, Rico slips out, leaving a note that reads how he sold himself to a rich family for $100,000 to kill, to be transferred to Eve and Cali's bank accounts following Purge night. A couple, Shane (Zach Gilford) and Liz (Kiele Sanchez) are driving to his sister's house to wait out The Purge. When their car runs out of gas, the are forced to fend for themselves on the streets. At the same time, police Sergeant Leo Barnes (Frank Grill) kits up to participate in The Purge and get revenge on the man who killed his son while driving under the influence. Early into the film, during paramilitary storming on Eve's apartment, when they attempt to kidnap her and her daughter, Leo drives by and ambushes them. Taking them to his armoured car for safety the three make a getaway with Shane and Liz, who have stowed away in the back seat during the shooting, and so all three points have converged and we have a party to try and survive the night, blah blah blah, blah, blah, blah...

So, overly-convoluted and wordy plot synopsis out of the way, let's get down to business! Starting with the good here, what they do in terms of moving the Purge concept on as a base idea is good. I've always been of the opinion that even though there have been mixed results, the concept itself is a terrific  starting point and premise for a horror film. There's so much that can be done with this idea, and I think that this is half the battle in terms of getting people initially interested to see where your picture goes. Also, to take it from the home-invasion genre and cast the net out into the streets is the natural progression for your film to go, so instead of repeating the same old story there's automatically something fresh being done here. Much of the same crew of the first Purge film is brought over into the sequel, and I think that it aesthetically benefits from their familiarity with the material. Cinematographer Jacques Jouffret, in a completely different setting to the first film, shows once again that he knows just how to light the picture in terms of creating the tone and the atmosphere. From a visual standpoint, this presents a wholly different challenge to the cinematographer, and he was more than up to the task. Finally, certain things that writer-director brings to the table in terms of the script and his direction were noteworthy in the positive sense. For instance, the Papa Rico subplot emphasises the class-war politics that the film is attempting to get across, as does a bidding war bordering on farce and satire over which rich Purgers gets to kill which kidnapped party within the safe confines of a warehouse. Also, there are a couple of standout action sequences, such as the warehouse shootout and a car chase in an underground tunnel, which are well-executed and clearly wouldn't have been possible within the confines of the house which was the setting of the previous film. The Purge: Anarchy, faults and all, does his some praiseworthy attributes.

However, as I perhaps indicated with that last sentence there, the film does have faults, and a good few of them at that. The first being that while the central premise is ingenious, DeMonaco and co don't have a storyline to hold up the film beyond that base point. Even though there are actors such as Frank Grillo and Michael K. Williams (who, me and my mate over Danland Movies, reminded us a lot Spike Lee, and not in a good way!) who try their earnest, I saw no reason to care about any of these characters as they were not so much as underwritten as just bog-standard stock types that we have seen in any number of movies beforehand. So, not caring about characters, that's number one. Number two, the journey they take these characters on is wholly unconvincing. When the different 'characters' converge and meet together, after their car dies, they all head on foot to the apartment of a colleague of Eva's to get a car: someone tell me how in the midst of all this wanton destruction, where people can get away with rape, murder, arson and all manner of crimes, why can't they steal a friggin' car instead of traipsing on foot to the other side of town? Also, someone who has seen this movie tell me they didn't see a big payoff involving the Revolutionaries, who are hinted at throughout the movie (which, let's not forget, has the subtitle 'Anarchy!'), roughly about a thousand miles away, who themselves are cardboard cutout beret-wearing peons, a shoddy attempt at politicising what is full all intents and purposes an exploitation horror film. Other aspects of the production were also troublesome. I mentioned about series returnees, and composer Nathan Whitehead, whose work on the first film was loathsome, brings more or less the same score, even though it sounds slightly different, to this sequel. I don't what it is, but why do people deem it necessary to inform us how we should feeling at any given stage during a movie? We are meant to be guided on an aural journey through a composer's work, not pushed and shoved in one direction and then jostled back into another. It's an outrageously generic horror movie score that has no place tainted the slowly decaying frequencies that my ears register. Finally, I felt that Todd E. Miller's editing required a combination of different things to be rectified; he needs to show a bit more tact when it comes to editing faster-paced scenes and not be like Michael Myers with a kitchen knife in an editing suite, and to not compose his montages in such an editorially cliched manner i.e. Pin drops, cut to all characters looking taken aback, smoke comes in, cut back to characters, back to smoke, in comes Revolutionaries, blah blah blah, blah, blah, blah...

If I sound like I'm bored at rattling on, well, that's because I am. There are things good about The Purge: Anarchy, such as the casting of the net outside of the confines of the film's original home-invasion set location, the cinematography by Jacques Jouffet, which is again atmospherically appropriate to the film, and some of the sequences and ideas conveyed by James DeMonaco through the central concept hint at what everyone involved is trying to get at. However, like the original, the execution suggests at unfulfilled possibilities, the fact that this could have been a way more thought-provoking and intelligent piece of horror cinema. None of the characters are engaging, and numerous parts of the exposition are nigh-on impossible to buy as plausible. Nathan Whitehead's score is outrageously generic (EMO, hello?) and Todd E. Miller's flawed editing don't help matters either. While I can't say that The Purge: Anarchy is a bad movie, it is deeply problematic and contrary to most of the critical notice going round, I found it to marginally worse than the original, which at least was halfway-decent. 

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 4.7/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Pensive (I've listened to Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here about three or four times over the past week or so: I think that's my subconscious trying to tell me something!)

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