The Purge had a big idea -- a near-future in which "any and all crime, including murder" is made legal one night a year -- but limited its focus to an upscale family's failure to insulate itself from the government-sanctioned carnage. Now The Purge: Anarchy gets down in the muck of downtown Los Angeles with the hoi polloi reveling in the free-for-all and the conscientious objectors stuck in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The latter group includes a mother-daughter duo and a youngish couple with car trouble. All four are saved from grisly ends by Sergeant (Frank Grillo), who's armed to the teeth and on an unspecified mission of vengeance on this most celebrated, feared, and reviled of nights. Everyone in this quintet of survivors is reluctant when he becomes the de facto guide -- Sergeant doesn't want to be slowed down, and they don't know what he's doing with so many weapons. With his low-key machismo and tactical expertise, Grillo's performance will make you wonder why he didn't start headlining movies like this before turning 50; his is the soft-spoken kind of charisma that helped make half of the Expendables into stars back in the '80s and '90s.
In their nighttime roving and casual violence, the film's best scenes resemble nothing so much as the undervalued Escape from L.A. It's the city as no-man's-land, and Anarchy makes good on one character's nervous (and ultimately quite funny) declaration that "Everyone goes downtown to purge."