Having served as the director of photography on the first Purge film, you must have been doubly excited when production began on this one.
I'm going to level with you: I actually kinda enjoyed The Purge. It certainly wasn't anything earth-shattering, and the interminable sequence in which the leads fumbled around their dark, maze-like house nearly sank the whole thing, but it wasn't without with certain merits. Namely the genuinely interesting premise: all forms of crime permissible one night each year, all in the interest of keeping social order. Sure, most of that fell by the wayside when the home invasion shenanigans kicked into high gear, but when it was announced that Anarchy would be taking the concept out onto the streets (which is the route they should have taken the first time, honestly) it was hard not to be intrigued.
You must have seen the potential in shooting some truly unhinged moments of spectacle and carnage out in the world. It's curious, then, that even after a second go-round, the whole affair still feels like a missed opportunity. Turns out that watching a purge unfold proves far less interesting than discussing the "What If" scenarios the film never addresses.
Anarchy is essentially one continuous chase, as the protagonists move to one location, fight off murderous lunatics, and seek refuge elsewhere. Rinse, wash, and repeat. This type of approach can work if you have cool characters, but aside from Frank "Why-hasn't-he-been-cast-as-The Punisher" Grillo, our heroes are bland at the very best, and frequently border on contemptible. To be fair, there are some pretty solid set pieces (when they're not being marred by your overly spastic camera work). In particular, when the sadistic attendees of a dinner party plan on re-enacting The Most Dangerous Game, only to have the tables turned.
Take that, high society!
On that note, I do have to take serious issue with the series' thesis that nearly everyone in the country is a psychopathic killer playing nice 364 days a year. We get told over and over again that all crime will be made legal. All crime. But apparently this just translates to "put on a scary disguise and kill people." Sure, it gives you some niftily ghoulish imagery - such as the costumed biker gang lead by a guy in a porcelain doll mask - but, the longer it drags on, the more boring it gets. Where are the people looting electronic stores in order to supplement their home theater systems? The less fortunate who pull off daring heists? Heck, even the white collar criminals who could make away with billions consequence free. In your defense, it would be difficult to make a guy clicking away at his computer visually dynamic, but still.
It's frustrating that the filmmakers have come up with such a limitless idea, only to have them constantly hold themselves back. It all feels oddly toothless, considering the subject matter. Instead of delivering some genuinely dark satire, they instead opt for the lazy "behold the endless cruelty of the wealthy and the flawless nobility of the poor" message we've heard countless times before.
What about a closer examination of the corrupt "Founding Fathers of America" government that enacts the purge each year? That could be an interesting direction to take the franchise. I just came up with that, and already it feels like a fresher idea than anything in this film.