July 18, 2014 at 1:00 am

Review: 'Purge: Anarchy' rights an inherent wrong

Zoe Soul, left, and Carmen Ejogo fight for their lives in downtown Los Angeles in 'The Purge: Anarchy.' (Universal Pictures)

Last year, “The Purge” took a ludicrous but engaging concept — what if all crime was sanctioned for one night? — and squandered it by centralizing the action inside one home. All that chaos on the streets and we’re stuck watching a home invasion thriller?

Its follow-up, “The Purge: Anarchy,” at least rights that inherent wrong. Here the setting is downtown Los Angeles, and the streets are wild: Gangs of thugs are Purging it up, celebrating what one character refers to as the “godforsaken holiday” where murder is legal, if only for one night, all in the name of supposedly unburdening Americans from the stress of all that murder they can’t commit every other day of the year.

Again, the concept is ridiculous. And director James DeMonaco (he also did the first “Purge”) isn’t quite subversive enough to play with or tweak the insanity of the premise the way, say, Paul Verhoeven would. He attempts to make statements about class and society and the results are unsurprisingly wobbly. But at least “The Purge: Anarchy” is more in line with what people going to a “Purge” movie would want out of a “Purge” movie.

So it’s Purge night, and Shane (“Friday Night Lights’” Zach Gilford) and his wife Liz (Kiele Sanchez) are lollygagging at the grocery store. (Seriously, who grocery shops on Purge night? Don’t you stock up a few days ahead of time?) Soon they are accosted by a group of bad dudes and things, as they say, get real. On the move, they run into Sergeant (professional tough guy Frank Grillo), a sort of Purge hero, who is helping out innocents being Purged upon by taking out the Purgers. Got it?

'The Purge: Anarchy'

GRADE: B-

Rated R for strong disturbing violence and for language

Running time: 104 minutes

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