*1/2 (out of four)
Last year’s surprise hit “The Purge” and the new “The Purge: Anarchy,” in which crime (including murder) is legal for 12 hours each year, do nothing to address the questions they inspire. How many people leave the country while this is happening? How does this impact airfares? Does anyone fly into the U.S. to participate in the purge? What do other countries think of this government-sanctioned event? How does it affect people’s state of mind in the short term and for the other 364 days? How is the purge different in small towns compared with large cities? And, seriously, would people really wait until the official start time to begin and lower their guns the moment it ends, like “Top Chef” contestants being told to put down their utensils?
Rather than consider these ideas, writer-director James DeMonaco uses this pointless, stupidly named sequel to rehash ideas about the rich hunting the poor. This time, some of the innocent folks caught in the wrong place (anywhere in the country) at the wrong time (7 p.m. March 21 to 7 a.m. March 22) are a couple (Evanston native Zach Gilford and his Chicago native wife, Kiele Sanchez) on the verge of separation and a mom and daughter (Carmen Ejogo, Zoe Soul). They all need protection from a nameless tough guy (Frank Grillo of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”) who delays his mission of revenge to save these hapless people caught in harm’s way.
Despite being like an open-invitation “Hunger Games” or modern, legal, domestic update of “The Most Dangerous Game,” the “Purge” franchise retains some suspense and thrives on Grillo’s sturdy resolve. It is also terribly written. Michael K. Williams (“The Wire”) plays a resistance leader given one awful line after another, the worst of which may be, “Get ready to bleed, rich bitches!” The year is 2023, and we’re told crime and unemployment are practically nonexistent, but there’s no sense of how society thrives when the purge isn’t taking place.
As with the first movie, though, the most disturbing thing here is the audience reaction. Again, many people laughed and clapped (even more appalling than doing so in an Adam Sandler movie), blind to their ironic endorsement of blood lust. I’m horrified that someone laughed as a male character sought to kill a woman who had turned him down. It’s only been two months since that rejection was the motive for a real-life mass shooting. If viewers already forgot about that, or can’t make the connection, society should be even more scared than it already is.
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