“The Purge: Anarchy”
Starring: Frank Grillo, Carmen Ejogo
Director: James DeMonaco
Rating: R for strong disturbing violence, and for language
Playing at: Regal Bowling Green Stadium 12, Highland Cinemas (Glasgow)
After last year’s surprise box office success of the low budget horror flick “The Purge,” it’s not shocking to see a second installment in “The Purge: Anarchy.”
While “Anarchy” is a mild improvement over the original, it’s still a film that stretches an intriguing premise as thinly as possible – a redundant exercise in bloodshed and violence that spins its wheels for far too long.
Once again set in a futuristic society where crime is legal for one night a year, “Anarchy” follows five people whose paths cross on one of those fateful nights.
Shane (Zach Gilford) and Liz (Kiele Sanchez) get stuck in the middle of the purge when their car breaks down. Eva (Carmen Ejogo) and Cali (Zoe Soul) are a mother and daughter whose apartment complex is overtaken by purgers. All four are aided by a former police sergeant (Frank Grillo) who is on his way to avenge the death of his son.
Essentially, the film becomes a night of near-death escapes, with enemies coming from everywhere. They have to fight off street gangs, government agents and even people they consider friends.
To his credit, writer/director James DeMonaco, who also wrote and directed the first film, makes a wise decision to take the action out of the home and put the protagonists in the street. It’s a decision that helps change the tone for the better, with “Anarchy” more of a standard action film than the family-in-peril horror tone from the original.
For a while the tone change makes it a slightly entertaining B-level film, but it quickly grows tiresome as the film spins its wheels for far too long – with one interchangeable action sequence after another.
Then the film tries to add depth, with a subplot meant to make a statement on social classes. DeMonaco tried the same thing in the first film and it didn’t work then either.
The social conscience is a little more palatable here, but it still feels tacked on in a film that wears out its welcome long before the final act.
Also in theaters
Another new release that suffers from stretching a flimsy premise way too far is “Sex Tape” (D+), the would-be comedy with Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel that grows dumber as it goes along.
It’s a waste of some talented people and another misfire from director Jake Kasden, who directed the disappointing “Bad Teacher” (which featured Diaz and Segel).
“Sex Tape” tells the story of Annie (Diaz) and Jay (Segel), a married couple looking to spice up the action in the bedroom.
Annie comes up with the idea of taping themselves having sex, a decision that seems harmless enough until the video is accidentally downloaded to family and friends (in the first of multiple convoluted plot points that are way too implausible to overlook).
This leads to another wild night, with Annie and Jay desperately trying to retrieve all the devices that the video downloaded to before family and friends can see what they filmed.
Diaz and Segel are genuinely funny people, who had good chemistry in “Bad Teacher.” That chemistry isn’t the same here, with the actors saddled in a ridiculous plot that is never as clever as it thinks it is.
No matter how hard they try, Diaz and Segel can’t make this material work.
About the only jokes that do work in “Sex Tape” involve Rob Lowe as Diaz’s potential boss, who proves to have a much darker side than she could have imagined. There is one visual gag involving Lowe that is really clever, with a nod to his infamous Academy Award appearance in 1989.
If the rest of “Sex Tape” could have been as interesting as that sequence, it could have worked.
As it is, it’s nothing more than a failed comedy that feels more like an informercial for Apple computer products and an adult entertainment website than an actual film.
“Sex Tape” is R for strong sexual content, nudity, language and some drug use and is now playing at the Regal Greenwood Mall Stadium 10 and Highland Cinemas in Glasgow.