I RATHER LIKED last year's gritty, blood-soaked thriller The Purge, in which a pinch-faced Ethan Hawke tried to keep his well-off family alive during the worst national holiday in all of existence, the Purge. It's a day when citizens are encouraged to take full advantage of the annual legalization of murder and mayhem... you know, to keep the violence at bay the rest of the year. With The Purge, writer/director James DeMonaco flung open the door on middle-class ultra-violence; with his sequel, The Purge: Anarchy, he turns his eye to how the inner city deals with the urge to Purge.
Struggling Los Angeles waitress Eva (Carmen Ejogo) and her daughter Cali (Zoë Soul) have plans to lock themselves in for the night to avoid the Purge's marauding hordes, but instead, a squadron of military-grade mercenaries forces them out of their shabby apartment at gunpoint. Turns out rich people don't go out cruising for victims on Purge night, they order in. Meanwhile, a mysterious scowling man (Frank Grillo) prepares to mete out some comeuppance—with a clutch of guns and a souped-up Mad Max car—to a man who wronged him. Reluctantly, he swoops in to rescue the ladies, and a young married couple (look, there's drippy Matt Saracen from Friday Night Lights!) tag along after they're caught out after dark. Violence ensues.
Economical and tense, with echoes of John Carpenter's work, Anarchy greatly expands the world built in the first film, showing how the poor are affected, vulnerable to the whims of the rich. With chase sequences through urban obstacles, it's also a more well-rounded experience than being stuck in a house with Ethan Hawke. Relying less on bone-crushing, the sequel delves more into the Purge's frenzy of gun nuts and class conflict, serving up some on-the-nose commentary about how near its dystopian future might be.