This sequel, with DeMonaco back at the helm, moves away from the household setting of the first film. It takes viewers on to the dangerous streets. Subsequently, thanks to a nice building of tension and craziness, and a great main role for Frank Grillo, this is a much better film. Yes, it's a sequel that greatly improves on the original film.
The plot is pretty simple. It is, once again, time for the annual purge. One man (Grillo) heads out on a specific mission, but he ends up sidetracked when he spots a mother and daughter (Carmen Ejogo and Zoe Soul, respectively) being manhandled by some soldier types. Allowing them to accompany him for a short while, the three soon become five when they find a young couple, Shane (Zach Gilford) and Liz (Kiele Sanchez), who had some car trouble that left them stranded outside on a night when they really want to be hiding indoors.
Aside from the solid lead performances (and a turn from Grillo that puts me in agreement with everyone else who thinks he should get the next shot at playing The Punisher), The Purge: Anarchy really benefits from two things. First of all, there's a real sense of danger throughout. It's not just danger specifically aimed at the main characters. As DeMonaco shows snapshots of the night unfolding it soon becomes clear that, as cliched as it seems, danger really does lurk around every corner. Second, there's the madness of it all. While watching this movie you may start to feel as if you've been locked inside a lunatic asylum, despite being completely sane (okay, relatively sane,in some cases). Rather than treat the premise as something pretty standard, as the first movie did, this sequel encourages many more questions. The morality of it all was always dubious, of course, but this also mixes in much more commentary regarding the class divive, and the effective use of The Purge as a tool to maintain a balanced society. This aspect was inherent in the first movie, but here it's put to the front and centre, although it never detracts from the sheer entertainment value of the film.
Everyone does well, especially Ejogo and Soul, with a fun, small role for Justina Machado leading to a memorable sequence, but this is Grillo's movie for every moment that he's onscreen. He is, as he's so often been in other roles, a believable badass, and the journey that his character goes on takes one or two interesting turns before the end credits roll.
All credit to DeMonaco, who very possibly had a lot of this planned as he worked on the first movie. He knows that taking the action to the streets creates a huge amount of potential, and he realises a lot of it. Snipers, roving gangs, rapists, rich people arranging their own "safe" purges, family disputes that can turn deadly, boobytraps, and much more. All come together to ensure that this purge is a memorable night indeed.