The Purge: Anarchy (2014)

The Purge: Anarchy (2014)

The spirit is weak, but the flesh is willing. Let’s just substitute some of these words around and pretend we’re talking about a film franchise here ok? Let’s say that “spirit” is akin to “premise” and that “flesh” can be substituted for “movie studio”. Sometimes things just shouldn’t be – it just shouldn’t exist. Like raw tomatoes. Why? Because they’re just unpleasant and unnecessary. This can also be said of the need to make sequels to films that don’t lend themselves to sequels because they wrapped themselves up rather neatly at the end of the first instalment. Hell, even films that left loose ends like District 9 haven’t even spawned a sequel (why, Neil Blomkamp, why?!)… so you’ve got to question why it was necessary to make a sequel to last year’s The Purge in the form of The Purge: Anarchy

The Purge: Anarchy (2014)

The Purge was a neat enough film. It didn’t blow us away here, but it worked – take a look at our review where we gave it a Phage Factor of 3/5. As I say, it was good, but had multiple flaws and didn’t really bring us any terror. It told the story of a family that had barricaded themselves into their home during the annual “purge” where for one night the US has no laws and people are free to rape and murder who they want but with no legal reprisals. The story wrapped up. There were no loose ends. So… naturally… The Purge: Anarchy just decides to base itself around the same “purge night” with an entirely different cast to attempt to string together a story by clumsily weaving three / four different stories together to tell something new.

Here, we focus on three groups of individuals that for one reason or another must band together when they find themselves on the streets during the annual purge; they don’t have the safety of a house to hide in, they must fend for themselves. These folks include Frank Grillo, Carmen Ejogo and Zach Gilford, amongst others, but honestly none need to be circled out, as they’re all relatively bland characters. Essentially, they must fight against the night to survive. Whilst you, the viewer, must fight against the urge to sleep or get annoyed at the writers attempting to shoehorn in an overarching storyline that will inevitably lead to The Purge 3

The Purge: Anarchy (2014)

You’re probably already getting the impression that I wasn’t the biggest fan of The Purge: Anarchy. You’d be correct. It just didn’t excite me in any real way beyond its premise. And indeed, that excitement mainly stemmed from the “home invasion” style of the first instalment, something that is abandoned in favour of wandering the city streets with our motley crew (I must stop spelling that as Motley Crue!). Frankly, this style just didn’t work too well and didn’t play out as this movie being a “horror” movie. It almost degraded into a by-the-numbers action movie with people moving from place to place, firing a gun a couple of times, then carrying on moving.

The Purge: Anarchy (2014)

However, what really startled me and led me to become annoyed were the flagrant attempts to establish a “lore” that would allow The Purge: Anarchy to continue beyond this second film. There’s a lot of mention of a “resistance”… so it wouldn’t take a genius to figure out where the franchise is going next. It’s inevitable that this will continue much in the same way that Saw and Paranormal Acticity had / have done. Saying that, at least those two films finished their first instalment on something of a cliffhanger with an obvious “to be continued” vibe to them. The Purge didn’t and this film, plus its subsequent instalements all smell faintly of “cash grab”, which is a shame. I liked the first film, I really did. But I couln’t see how it was going to be continued. And now I see why that was.

Ultimately, if you hadn’t guessed already, The Purge: Anarchy is the film that ne’er should have been. It’s “ok” by modern standards for sure, but it’s no longer a horror movie, or even a thriller. No, it’s taken itself down the action route with few thrills and chills to be had. The premise of the film still remains interesting, but the potential to outstay its welcome has already arisen by the second instalment. This is something that didn’t really hit other forced franchises such as Paranormal Activity or Saw until the 4th outing. Mind you, even those films have gone on.. and on… and on… So who knows, maybe this will pick up?

Yes, the flesh truly is as weak as the spirit on this one. Its dragging itself through the city streets whilst the ominous blast of the air raid siren rings through the air to mark the beginning of the annual purge. Indeed, if The Purge: Anarchy was personified it would be sitting in the middle of the street armed with only a spork and a half eaten tin of baked beans: it wouldn’t fight for long…

Phage Factor:

2 Stars

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Robocop (2014)

Robocop 2014 (2014)

Way back in the mists of time, we put some features up on the age-old topic of reboots: what’s the point of them? Are they better than the original? Was the original any good to begin with? Every year spawns iterations and new reasons for die hard fans to spew forth venom and shake their fists in discontent. I’m still not entirely sure this is the case when some of these films are 20+ years old. If you love the original, then great! You’ve got a favourite film. But that doesn’t mean you have to love the new one does it?? For me, I love Pulp Fiction and wouldn’t really care too much if it was remade. Simply because I know it can’t be topped! But maybe Pulp Fiction’s still a bit too modern (and iconically Tarantino)… unlike the current reboot-du-jour: Robocop. I am the law!

Robocop (2014)

Sadly, we don’t ever hear the line “I AM THE LAW” in this version of Robocop! A lot of time has passed since 1987. A lot has changed since 1987. The Phage has certainly changed since 1987. I think I was last seen getting my head stuck in a flight of stairs in 1987… I’m sure that’s going to happen again in 2014 though if I’m honest; I just can’t resist the urge to see whether my can fit into a tiny spot! Anyway… back on track! Yes, a lot has changed since 1987. We now find ourselves spending 2/3 of our day being controlled by screens of various sizes. Technology has come on leaps and bounds. This is how the cast seem to be justifying this reimagining / rebooting of the one man law machine: Robocop.

The premise is loosely the same: Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman), a Detroit cop becomes irreparably damaged through no fault of his own. When he wakes up he’s been fused with machine to become the world’s first Robocop – a cyborg for all intents and purposes – by Dr. Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman). In this iteration though, it plays against the backdrop of Raymond Sellar’s (Michael Keyton) OmniCorp looking to break the American market for machine-based legal protection. The one thing that stands in his way is a pesky piece of legislation prohibiting robots from policing the country, as they’re devoid of emotion and rationale. This is where the idea to fuse man with machine comes about… if they can show the value of such an entity, then the law could get repealed… but obviously, things never go exactly as planned!

2014... back in black!

2014… back in black!

Much has been made of the social commentary of Robocop. And some of it is rather stark and in your face: parodies and pastiches of what’s going on in the world. Nowhere is this more evident than Samuel L. Jackson‘s Pat Novak sections where he espouses the pro’s of the right wing, pro-robot agenda. It’s obviously used to harken closest to some rather large US networks that perhaps push a similar agenda. Aside from the robot thing… none of them have pushed that yet. Not until Google take them over anyway, which’ll only be a matter of years I’m sure, using their android drone army!

I seem to have spoken in-depth about the philosophy of this film, but little about the actual content! Let’s correct that. Robocop is a solid piece of science fiction, but doesn’t go much further than that. That’s not to say it’s unenjoyable – it has some interesting concepts and some serviceable performances, but it never challenges. If I think of some of my favourite sci-fi films of recent years, such as District 9 or Looper, they challenged and dazzled in equal measures. I certainly wasn’t expecting a film of similar grandeur, let’s not make any mistakes, but I was also hoping for something along the lines of last year’s Dredd. That film offered beautiful visuals with a simple plot mechanic, but was thoroughly entertaining. But Robocop… well, doesn’t hit the same highs as his other be-helmeted cop brethren.

Robocop (2014)

It has its set pieces, but the film lacks the connecting sinew – the true plot. It’s there, but it’s not wholly fleshed out. The performances are also there, but they too fail to really blow you away. This is particularly true of Joel Kinnaman. I’m going to refer back to Dredd here by talking about Karl Urban. Karl, despite only showing his jaw for the whole film, held the screen and brought a lot of emotion to that jaw role. Kinnaman doesn’t really deliver the same… it’s somewhat bland… but that may just be fantastic character acting!

I think the biggest thing that’s lacking in this film is heart. The original had a sense of humour and over the top violence. Whilst the latter certainly isn’t needed, the former is. Samuel L. Jackson provides some much needed comic relief, but the film is sadly devoid of other respites…

Ultimately, Robocop is more like the machines than he probably realises: slick and shiny, but ultimately devoid of human emotion and heart. Whilst it’s certainly not a bad film, it’s hardly going to set the world on fire. There’s been much talk of trying to restart a franchise with this film… but with this offering, I’m unsure if that’ll happen. Having said that, I’ve been wrong in the past. Although it is nice to state that this definitely won’t be up for an Oscar, which has been a recurring comment here with several of the past films we’ve reviewed!

So, this is simply another case of a reboot failing to really re “boot” a franchise. It got a slight shoe-ing, but definitely not a booting. It’s a shame as the film had a lot to offer at its premise with the machine-driven future we’re spiralling towards. I wonder if we’ll ever get Google: The Movie – that won’t need a reboot. Well, I’m sure we will get it in 2028 when our overlords take over our lives with their Google Glass, Google Droids and Google Boogles (we made the last one up)… They are the law.

Phage Factor:

3 Star