The Purge: Anarchy (2014). 6/10
Something about this franchise is endlessly fascinating. It sets itself apart from similar thrillers by offering some form of explanation for its incessant violence. Most slashers and “survive-the-night” movies provide a basic premise and objective (survival) but no real reason or substance propping up the story. When charged with justifying the violence, The Strangers (2008), a movie with a somewhat similar theme, embraced the senselessness with the “Because you were home” line provided by a similarly masked villain. That line is mostly a cop-out but does add some dread to the film by implying that anyone could find themselves targeted for random attack. But The Purge offers a premise that not only satisfies but is genuinely interesting. Set in 2023, the film follows a group through the Purge, an annual event sanctioned by the New Founding Fathers of America during which all crime is legal. The new government credits the Purge with drastically reducing the country’s violent crime as citizens save a year’s worth of violence and revenge for the 12 hour main event. And there is a lot of violence as gangs prowl the streets and the upper class purchase the poor for Purge “offerings” including ritualistic machete murders in the name of family bonding and “hunts” where the heavily armed rich hunt the defenseless poor. A point is made to emphasize how wealthy parents pass on the tradition of the Purge (ie killing poor people) to their children. Certainly, in hearing only these highlights, one might suspect that The Purge makes some grand statement about today’s society and how the rich is literally killing the poor and making it a family affair by teaching their children to carry on their
marginalization destruction of the working class. And you wouldn’t be wrong. Arguments against gun culture and weak gun control laws are low-hanging fruit as well. But the movie strays away from direct social soap-boxing as this would be very far out-of-place. The franchise has to be credited for at least attempting to guise its violence under the veil of social experiment. The veil is thin but sturdier than most contemporaries. Overall the film is fairly suspenseful, even if mostly predictable. Towards the end some interesting plot points sneak their way in but don’t go far to increase the intrigue or make the movie much more than a vehicle for violence. Overall this is a well-earned and honest 6/10. The Purge: Anarchy accomplishes what it sets out to do and nothing more. Which is for the best.
At first glance this movie, and its predecessor, look terrible. Okay, maybe that holds true on second, third and fourth glances. But on that fifth glance, I can start to convince myself there is something worthwhile under the shameless violence. But really, the shameless violence is what drives the movie. The crux of the concept rests on the question “what would you do if nothing was illegal?” expanding to “what would you do if you could do whatever you wanted?” More respectable outlets have explored this concept with fewer skull masks and burning buses. Maybe The Purge is our modern world’s way of approaching this question. Or maybe it’s just an excuse to watch gratuitous, machete-wielding, shock-inducing violence.
Check out MovieRob’s review of The Purge: Anarchy as well.
Only God Forgives (2013). 4/10
I had mixed feelings walking into this one (or rather, slumping into my couch as I popped in the DVD). The film is the much-anticipated directorial follow-up to Nicolas Winding Refn’s spectacular Drive (2012). While Drive was one of 2012’s best films, Only God Forgives leaves much to be desired. Drive developed interesting and compelling characters and we become deeply invested in their outcomes. But I didn’t really care about the characters here. Or really understand what was happening at any given moment. The dialogue is scant, which in and of itself is not a problem, but the underlying story is shaky. The style and tone Winding Refn develops are as strong as in Drive but there isn’t enough structure to hold up this pretty house
Confessions From a Geek Mind wrote an excellent comparison of Drive and Only God Forgives that any fan of the films needs to read.
The World’s End (2013). 7/10
Not as strong as Shaun of the Dead (2004) or Hot Fuzz (2007), this is an enjoyable, if not overwhelming, final installment to the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy. The overall feeling and style of The World’s End matches the first two films in the series with Simon Pegg leading as an alcoholic looking to relive the glory days of his youth with childhood friends Nick Frost, Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine, and Eddie Marsan. Unlike the first two films, Pegg’s character here doesn’t provide the linchpin the film needs and doesn’t work as well as his lazy every-man in Shaun of the Dead and overachieving cop in Hot Fuzz. Regardless, The World’s End may not be the strongest comedy of the year or the even the best delivered by this crew but it holds a special place for me given my love of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz and the taste I’ve acquired for Cornetto humour.
MyReelPOV’s review from July, 2013 (I know, I’m really late on this one) sums up my feelings towards this movie perfectly: “Pegg and Frost are such a relatable duo that I can’t help feeling for their characters no matter what the story.”