While I thoroughly enjoyed the original and really liked the concept of an annual government-sanctioned, twelve-hour free-for-all where all crime is legal, I agreed with most critics when I said that it fell victim to many clichés of a typical home invasion film after a certain point and more could have been done to explore the different aspects of the purge. This second installment is undoubtedly an improvement over the first one. Not only did it bring the action almost entirely outside like many fans pleaded would happen in the sequel, but it also chose to involve three subplots that eventually came together, instead of just focusing on the one family that was headed by Ethan Hawke’s character in the first film.
The three stories in this next chapter, which takes place in 2023 – exactly one year after the original, revolve around young couple whose car breaks down just as the purge is about to commence; a police sergeant who plots to get revenge on the man who got away with killing his son in a drunk driving accident; and a mother and daughter who are forced to flee from their home after attackers obliterate it. These five characters eventually meet up in the middle of town, and they decide to try to stick together to survive the night as the chaos ensues.
I was surprised to see that there were not any bigger name actors cast in the lead roles. Ethan Hawke isn’t exactly A-list, but he’s an Oscar nominated veteran actor who is certainly more famous than any of the actors in this sequel. The most recognizable actor is probably Zach Gilford, who was a regular cast member on Friday Night Lights, and in this movie plays Shane, one half of the stranded couple. Frank Grillo, who plays vengeful Sergeant Leo Barnes, may have had a supporting role earlier this summer in Captain America: The Winter Soldier as Brock Rumlow, but before that, he was probably best known for his stint on the first season of Prison Break, which was almost a decade ago. However, most of the actors do a fine job, proving that star power is not necessary to make a good movie. Look out for the one character who makes a return from the previous film.
I hope they continue to make these movies because there is potential for them to explore even more concepts of the purge, such as other crimes that would be allowed on Purge Night. This is the one franchise that could actually benefit from having multiple installments because the filmmakers could really do something totally different every time. The Saw series? Not so much.