THE PURGE: ANARCHY REVIEW

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I think I’m going to purge myself from seeing any more of these films for the foreseeable future.

It’s not bad enough that the first one wasn’t that great. To hear there was a sequel, I was baffled. However, that ultra cool trailer worked its magic and had me intrigued.  The promise of an anarchic Escape from New York meets Marathon Man mesh up had me ticking all the boxes. Alas, this time around it’s another misfire. A great concept that fails to reach it’s true horrific or satirical potential.

The opening 30 minutes was slow burning but actually quite watchable. The fact that this time around we are seeing The Purge on the streets not just in a rich suburban household made it that much more interesting and the introduction of multiple characters helped keep the pace going and freshened it up. However, once we get past the introduction of the newbies, you can’t help but pick at their flat one dimensional clichéd templates. Now I know these films are not going to deal with the human condition and aspires to be nothing more than an futuristic urban thriller with the inevitable picking off of each member but still . . . could it at least try and be less predictable?

I cannot call this a horror, as such. The concept is horrific in itself but a few moments of blood and gore and a couple of jumpy moments does not a scary movie make. Although unfortunately with horror films of late, that does seem to be the case. How the characters unite in their struggle to survive is well done and pacey. However, with all typical “horror movies”, the inevitable squabbling and issues before the Purge pop their ugly heads and it soon becomes very soap opera-ish and very dull.

It would help if they had a character that you actually cared about . . . and for a moment we do. Welcome Frank Grillo (Captain America: Winter Soldier) as the mysterious Sergeant. His Death Race armour cladded vehicle. Suited and booted and scouting like the streets like the Punisher. A predator hunting for his prey. However, this protagonist has a particular, if predictable, kill in mind. Grillo has always been an underrated actor and this performance shows the charisma that he carries. His moody mystery man helped lift a film that seemed to be losing more and more of its momentum as the running time dragged along.

To be honest, the most memorable characters (minus Grillo) are the captors with their creepy masks. Oh yes, the creepy masks are back. However, after a while, you realise they are just riding around on bikes screaming. Jack Conley (LA Confidential) certainly made a mark and will no doubt become a cult character as Big Daddy. Hunting around in a black delivery man with . . . oh yeah, a chain gun in the back.

There are moments of action that cure the blood lust but it’s all pretty tame. There were a few twists to be had on their way. The idea of the rich using the Purge as their own little play day was a nice bit of satire. There were some moments that were a little creepy. The fact we follow a man carrying a case of beer and setting up a sniper rifle as if he’s going fishing was demented but brilliant. However, it’s all moments. After a while, you realise that’s it. The cast squabble. Zach Gilford (Friday Night Lights) seems to be playing the same role over and over. His bashful, anxious boyfriend character is getting really old.

The whole “This is wrong. Killing is bad” is pointless in a film like this . . . especially when being pursued by bloodthirsty nutters. It seems to get caught up in its own ridiculousness and ends up becoming a parody of itself. A clever and highly hilarious scene in which the rich are bidding to kill a group of people was unexpected. But the Marathon Man-esque garden party purge sequence that followed was overkill. It certainly injected some much needed tension and suspense as Grillo is trying to save the gang against suited and booted millionaires with night vision goggles.

However, it all gets incredibly predictable, corny with a hokey ending that killed off any buzz that this film desperately tried to generate. Michael K. Williams (Omar from The Wire) as Carmelo. My word. Now that was horrific. His anti-Purge campaign videos were flat as hell as he spouted utter bilge and his appearance near the finale. Let’s just say he does his worst Samuel L Jackson impression. Awful. A shame for a really talented actor. You could tell the film had lost it by the fact a good portion of the audience were laughing. Kind of the reverse effect, wouldn’t you think? 2/5 for me.

Currently ranks #180 out of 199!

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CAPTAIN AMERICA: WINTER SOLDIER REVIEW

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A welcome return from the First Avenger!

As Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) struggles to embrace his role in the modern world, he teams up with a fellow Avenger and S.H.I.E.L.D agent, Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) to battle a new threat from history: an assassin known as the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan).

An enjoyable action packed romp. I felt Captain America: The First Avenger showed promise with a good set of characters that I hoped would have exploited the untapped World War backdrop. BUT alas it was not to be. Rushed to meet that Avengers Assemble release date, I was left feeling a little disappointed.

Right up to this point, some of the entries had been mixed (Despite my love of the Marvel universe) from the rehashed Hulk origin stories (Team Bana all the way!) to the brilliant Thor films. The first Avengers was over-hyped, overlong and OTT for me. Redeemed by an action packed finale.

However, this inevitable sequel (in a number of relentless comic book movies in the pipeline) managed to stand on its own, improve on the Cap franchise and make itself a worthy addition.

Despite my grumblings at how swift Rogers was pushed from WW2 to the present, WS made up for it by focusing on his transition. Providing some much needed depth. A man catching up with the times. A joke involving a “Things to check out on the Internet” list was nicely done.

However, a new war is brewing under the clean streets of Washington, one that compromises the very organisation of SHIELD, leading to an action packed, octane thrill ride (that is a little long at 136 minutes) that questions the Cap’s very ethics and honour. With a new war comes a whole new set of rules and lines he doesn’t want to cross.

The action set pieces were great to watch. The fight scenes were intense and brilliantly choreographed. The 3D element left much to be desired, apart from the explosive finale. Not a necessity in your viewing experience.

Evans was fantastic. He is Captain America. His presence, his build (The dude is hench!) and his performance were spot on. He had great chemistry with ScarJo. Is there a brewing superhero romance on the cards?

The directing duo The Russo brothers even managed to introduce and revamp another Marvel addition quite well. It helped having Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker) taking on the role. Not enough of Falcon in my opinion. I loved the partnership between him and the Cap. More please.

Samuel L (the L stands for Mother – you get the idea) Jackson unleashes the Fury (ah ha) at last. Finally being brought into the action and given more screen time.

It might help to have watched the other entries to fill in the gaps BUT it’s not essential as the film does recap over crucial plot points for those who haven’t (or might have forgotten).

The Winter Solider was a worthy foe. However, his big reveal was hardly a twist or a shock. A bit too much build up and emphasis on that moment. I was great to see Robert Redford and he played the sinister Congressman Alexander Pierce to perfection. He does unfortunately dither into the background BUT the guy is nearly 80 so I’ll give him a break.

The supporting cast was impressive, if maybe wasted a little. Cudos to Maximiliano Hernandez for his turn as Jasper Sitwell (Marvel Agents of SHIELD TV fans will know). I had to laugh at Pierce’s Board Room of Doom featuring the likes of Jenny Agutter (An American Werewolf in London) and . . . Jim from Neighbours (Alan Dale).

Frank Grillo (The Purge) was menacing. While, the beautiful Emily Van Camp (Revenge), talented though she is, was given a relatively minor and passive role. Anyone could have played her. If not for a little twist, well if you can call it that, her character would have been pointless.

There may be plot holes and a questionable length BUT with decent set pieces, balanced humour and an actual story line that fleshed out the Cap, my faith has been restored in the First Avenger and I look forward to the next one.

3.5/5

Of course, stay for the credits for a mid-credit reveal. Don’t say to the very end, the clip was pointless. You might as well have had Stan Lee pop up and say, “You still here?”