'The Purge: Anarchy': What the Critics Are Saying

Writer James DeMonaco directs a new cast led by Frank Grillo, Carmen Ejogo and Zach Gilford in the sequel to the surprise horror hit.

The Purge: Anarchy, the sequel to last year's surprise hit The Purge, hits theaters nationwide today. This iteration brings a new cast, led by Frank Grillo, Carmen Ejogo and Zach Gilford, and James DeMonaco is back as writer-director. 

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Universal's sequel took in a solid $2.6 million at late shows Thursday and is expected to gross as much as $30 million during its opening weekend.

Read what the critics are saying about The Purge: Anarchy

The Hollywood Reporter film critic Frank Scheck says in his review that it "efficiently exploits its high-concept premise while delivering far more visceral thrills than its predecessor. Like it or not, a new franchise seems to have been born. ... While the first film was essentially an elaborate home-invasion thriller, this follow-up more closely resembles a John Carpenter-style action movie (DeMonaco scripted the Assault on Precinct 13 remake) with its plethora of well-staged, ultraviolent set pieces. And while the character development is clearly not a high priority, the principal figures are a generally engaging and sympathetic lot, with Grillo's steely Leo particularly intriguing. More interestingly, the film expands on its original premise by introducing racial and class-conscious themes into the storyline." He adds, "While the film would have gained resonance if these provocative ideas had been developed more fully, it works well enough on its own terms, with Grillo's commanding turn anchoring the proceedings."

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The New York Times' Manohla Dargis also enjoyed the sequel, calling it a "satisfyingly creepy, blunt, down-and-dirty thriller, one of those follow-ups that improves on the original. ... Ritual sacrifice, either of the self or others, may be almost as old as humanity itself, but it's also enjoying a pop-cultural moment, from the purifying spectacle of The Hunger Games series to gladiatorial shows like Dancing With the Stars and that blood-slicked altar of worship known as Game of Thrones."

Los Angeles Times' Betsy Sharkey is one of many critics less fond of the film, even if it's better than the original: "Make no mistake, a good Purge does not equal a good movie, but the post-apocalyptic thriller is slightly more interesting because it takes itself, and its menace, more seriously. ... The most likely to be center stage if there is a third Purge is a beret-wearing rebel named Carmelo, played by The Wire's wonderful Michael K. Williams. ... Despite the film's drumbeat that killing other people is not the answer to the country's problems, the violence is excessive, unrelenting and hard to stomach. But by building a marginally better Anarchy, no doubt we're in for another purge next year."

The Boston Globe's Loren King says, "Give credit to DeMonaco for at least attempting to give his action thriller some heft with a plot that concerns our obsession with violence, ham-fisted as it is. But The Purge: Anarchy is still just an excuse to bombard us with high-powered weaponry, armored vehicles, vigilantes and masked marauders in creepy Joker-like makeup. ... Will its makers be responsible if someone goes on a rampage while wearing a Purge mask and spouting nonsense about soul cleansing and America reborn? No. But it's hard to see movies like this as just cinematic junk food anymore."

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New York Daily News' Jordan Hoffman gives one of the most eviscerating reviews: "Grillo maintains a degree of charisma as he portrays the group's leader, the only one purposely out on 'Purge Night' for an act of arguably justifiable vengeance. The other performances are as ineffective as the script. But even worse, the film's 'What if?' scenario takes the germ of an interesting social-science idea and lets it rot in a nasty, ethically questionable cesspool of junk cinema. The whiff of pulpy sci-fi isn't enough to hide what is basically ugly, nihilistic stuff meant to whip audiences into a vicarious blood lust. The story's lazy attempt at condemning man's darker impulses makes this one long, moral mess."