CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS
Back in 2012 we had The Purge, a perfectly decent if entirely unoriginal home invasion thriller which suffered from a central conceit - that for 12 hours every year all crime is legal - which made absolutely no sense. In any movie future that seeks to be taken seriously (unlike the silliness of an Aeon Flux, say) there needs to be some believable progression from the present, and the idea of switching the emergency services off for twelve hours so the surviving populace can feel better about themselves through indiscriminate murder doesn't stand up. Suddenly for one night it's okay to firebomb an orphanage or a maternity ward? Now, we have a sequel in which that central idea of Cull Yourself Happy still doesn't make any sense and still isn't satisfactorily explained, but at least it does go into other areas rather than merely replicating the original.
While the first Purge was a home invasion film, The Purge: Anarchy is an old-fashioned urban action thriller that brings to mind the kind of schlocky eighties exploitation nonsense (Bronx Warriors, for example) that came out in the wake of Escape From New York: a group of civilians have to make their way across a city swarming with gangs of murderous psychopaths, many of whom are in outlandish costume and makeup for no immediately obvious reason. On that one night in March when crime is not just ignored but actively encouraged by Government, four innocent potential victims find themselves stuck outside and must survive until daybreak, helped only by an embittered police officer (Frank Grillo) with vengeance on his mind...
The first twenty minutes or so are absolutely terrible because the only thing they can achieve is to remind you just how boneheadedly stupid the central idea is. However, once the sun goes down and the purging kicks off it becomes an enjoyably tough and violent action movie - as with Arnold Schwarzenegger's Sabotage, perhaps too tough for the 15 certificate it's been given by the BBFC. It's also helped by some vicious satirical humour, with a gathering of odious millionaires effectively restarting the slave trade by literally buying poor people off the streets so they can murder them in cold blood.
While the first film was essentially about the privileged One Per Cent actually having to get their hands dirty, this is about the poor and huddled masses at the other end of the stick. One hopes that a further instalment - if there is one - will actually try and provide a plausible explanation as to how the Purge originated as a positive act of social cleansing, rather than an illogical plot device for an action franchise that in all honesty doesn't really need it anyway. Not a great film, but it is entertaining enough when it gets going.