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I’m stunned as I write this, and not for the reason you might think.
Out of complete left field, out of complete leftist politics, in a place I’d never have expected it, the new, R-rated thriller in theaters “The Purge: Anarchy,” is one of the most intellectually stimulating movies I’ve seen in a long, long time.
The previous and first film in “The Purge” series sets up the story premise that in the near future, the U.S. government establishes an annual “purge,” a 12-hour window where all crimes, even rape and murder, are permitted unfettered and unpunishable as a way of “cleansing” the criminal instincts in the population. Bizarre and twisted, perhaps, but an interesting thought experiment in human nature and depravity. What would actually become of a culture that allowed its id to run wild, even for just 12 hours a year?
Unfortunately, the critics say (for I haven’t seen the first film), the first “Purge” movie didn’t really explore its social-commentary premise, but devolved into a home-invasion terror thriller of poor quality.
The second movie, however, didn’t make the same mistake.
Now, normally, I wouldn’t have bothered with the sequel to what was panned as a repugnant offering, but when the taglines for the film boast, “United we purge: An American tradition,” I wanted to see what the movie was actually saying about America.
The film begins in formulaic fashion, introducing us slowly to the ensemble cast that is about to flee for their lives for the rest of the movie, while also giving us the backstory on how a government group called “The New Founding Fathers” have instituted “the Purge,” while Internet preachers rail against it as a form of false, secular religion.
Then the sirens go off, the population huddles behind closed doors and “commencement” of the purge begins with ticking clock, an excellent suspense element.
So far, so good.
From an entertainment perspective, however, the rest of the film consists of long periods of thriller-movie mediocrity interspersed with moments of appalling. It also becomes clear that the filmmakers start pushing a constant stream of class-warfare, anti-NRA propaganda, drafting an obvious, unholy trinity of “God, guns and money” that gets recited and symbolized over and over again, like some kind of Goebbels-drafted, Occupy Wall Street, sophomoric college-student experiment on overdrive.
Seriously, I’m a bit worried this movie will convince some weak-minded folks to take up actual guns and kill actual wealthy people – it’s that inciting, and I’m not joking.
Oh, but wait!
Even in the midst of this eye-rollingly obvious, leftist screed, the filmmakers depict a gritty, even realistic portrayal of the storyline they’ve built (except for a “Hunger Games” like scene that goes way overboard into farce territory in the effort to demonize wealthy people) and in the process … actually stumble upon truth!
I’m sure it was unintentional, but the makers of “The Purge: Anarchy” actually portray, in stunning, illustrative fashion, key elements of a conservative, Christian worldview.
Say what? But follow me here.
Three examples stand out: The first is a line that emerges from a poor, black family that starts to doubt the benevolence of the “New Founding Fathers” and their “purge” concept.
They argue that the purge is really about “keeping the population down by getting rid of people like us to make money.”
Exactly. Could a better description be illustrated of what Planned Parenthood is all about? Margaret Sanger, founder of the birth-control organization, boldly declared her goal to keep blacks and other “undesirables” from breeding, and today, her organization systematically targets black and urban poor population centers to the tune of billions of dollars (sounds a lot like “keeping the population down by getting rid of people like us to make money”).
I’m reminded of a line from the song “Beast” by the hard rock Christian band Bride, which sang about abortion, “They say when a child isn’t wanted he’s ‘just disposed.’ Then go into the poor neighborhoods and machine gun them all.”
“The Purge: Anarchy” illustrates the exact same principle and philosophical objection to murdering the “undesired” innocents.
In a later scene, despite the overall anti-gun message of the movie, the film makes again a perfect illustration of why the right to bear arms is so important.
A government operative decides to use the purge as a cover for killing enemies of the state, in this case, those rightfully opposed to the purge. The scene comes down to a pivotal moment when a federal S.W.A.T. team is closing in on our heroes … and what stops them? A home owner and two women, all armed with guns.
There they stand in the movie: federal agents on an evil, oppressive mission, rendered impotent by an armed, informed citizenry. Hello, Second Amendment!
But the most stunning philosophical point, the one that really has me riled up (in a good way), is depicted through the mindset of the hooligans on the street who actually support the purge, who use it to rape and murder.
Twice in the film a character unexpectedly begins a rampage of evil and declares, “This is my right, granted to me by the government.”
And in the film, that’s how it is. A man can rape his upstairs neighbor, a woman can kill her husband, because the government gave them that “right.”
It begs the fundamental, critical question of our day: Where do rights actually come from? And can a government actually give people rights?
“The Purge: Anarchy” gives us a shocking station to park the train of thought that says the government grants rights: a “right” to health care, a “right” to a job, a “right” to abortion, a “right” to marry or a “right” to kill – when “rights” are determined by popular vote, it really means anything goes, and that’s the very definition of anarchy.
Yet, as recent polls show, the majority of Americans today (at least those under the age of 30) believe that our “rights” are determined by popular opinion, declaring that two men have a “right” to marry. Says who? Well, says the people. Says the very train of thought that leads to anarchy.
Contrast that with our actual Founding Fathers, who believed “rights” were not drafted by vote nor culture nor government, but were bestowed upon us only by God (“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights …”).
Either a moral authority, ala our Creator God, endows rights, or popular opinion does. And as “The Purge: Anarchy” beautifully illustrates, the latter proposition is not only unworkable, it’s terrifying.
- “The Purge: Anarchy” is rated R and for good reason, with roughly 85 obscenities and profanities, many of them hard.
- The film is also very heavy on violence, with bloody shootings, hand-to-hand combat, chase scenes, threats of violence, some brutal deaths and some gore.
- Sexuality is significantly lighter, including only a few kisses, a shirtless guy, a brief scene of lewd references and a woman’s form seen vaguely through a steamed up shower door. There is, however, a scene where a man threatens to rape two women and even licks one of their faces, but the scene is interrupted before anything explicit happens.
- The movie is filled with religious references, mostly linking a phony worship of “God” to the purge, including people ranting maniacally about God, claiming by killing they’re “cleansing their souls” and a prominent, menacing character who wears a mask with the word “God” written on it. The movie really tries to link the purge and gun violence and greed to a cult of “God” that nonetheless lacks any hallmarks of true, Christian religion. There is a line from a counter-purge activist who declares, “We lost our souls to obtain this peace. We no longer worship at the altar of Christ, Moses or Mohammad; we worship at the altar of Smith & Wesson.”