With the arrival of this sequel, audiences now have two Purge scenarios to follow as practical models for how to behave on the not-too-distant-future day when it becomes a real thing. In the first film we learned what the Purge will be like for rich jerks in McMansions tricked out with fortress-like security systems. They will die, is what.
In The Purge: Anarchy, we get to go outside and learn what it will be like for have-nots in big cities, people without the means to afford barriers that can resist neighbors equipped with grenades, machine guns, rocket launchers and armored vehicles. A significant number of them will also die, but only after running themelves ragged, Escape From New York-style, through downtown war zones, led by a stoic, vendetta-minded tough guy (Frank Grillo, getting it just right, like he's in training for the Surliness Olympics). In other words, at this point in Purge Mythology, it seems a fairly unwinnable situation for most people who aren't already seasoned law enforcement, hardened criminals or Lena Headey.
Big Picture ideas were ignored almost entirely in the first chapter, but it's clear from this installment that the series has a lot of metaphors on its mind, and that if you pressed it for a reason to exist it would belch out words like "fascism," "racism," and "feudalism." That's fine. It's good to have something, anything, however clumsily handled, to point at when people accuse you of mere exploitation.
But that clumsy handling draws a heck of a lot of questions to the surface. For example, let's say you live neither in a rat trap nor in a beige, gated community. Instead, you hail from a cute little small town, the sort of charming place Garrison Keillor would invent, and that adorable village has a nice library and an annual harvest festival and sweet, pie-making neighbor ladies. What happens to those places on Purge night, the one terror-evening each year when all crime, including rape and murder, are not only legal but actively encouraged and treated like rites enacted on a religious holiday? Is there enough legit rage in a place like that to warrant these kinds of shenanigans?
Other concerns raised by this silly, sloppy franchise (one that can go on forever as far as I'm concerned, so long as it ups the ante with every sequel on its journey to giddy grindhouse glory), details that two films have now not seen fit to explain, stuff like: Who voted on this? Is there a President anymore? All these "New Founding Fathers" the films constantly reference, the guys who invented the Purge, who are these people? Where are they? When did everybody start saying Sunday dinner-style prayer before recreational slaughter? Does that mean churches endorse the Purge, too? If your neighbor sexually tortures you and, say, chops off your arms, do you get the deposit back on your apartment when you need to move away from that guy the day after? Who cleans up the corpses? Was there a concurrent hiring boom in the emergency medical services field to adequately address injuries sustained in this hellscape?
And speaking of medical attention, can you burn down a hospital on Purge night? A children's hospital? A children's hospital that is also a doggie and kitty hospital? Are there lines of sympathy greeting cards to express sincerely held "Sorry you got Purged" sentiments? Are there drugs in the water supply that help people clamp down their Murder Ids for the next 364 days? When during the calendar year is the Purge held? It can't be too close to Christmas, right? That would sort of dampen the mood, which would really put a dent in consumer confidence; like, why bother buying mom that nice scarf if there's the threat that someone from her reading group is plotting to disembowel her in January? And will all of this be explained in July of 2015 when we get The Purge: Lake Wobegon, or will we all just have to keep living with the mystery?