When 2013’s dystopian film “The Purge” was released, audiences weren’t exactly sure what to make of it. The concept of a decriminalized 12-hour period where all police, fire and hospital services are suspended and all crime–including murder–is legal under the premise that one night of unpunished lawlessness would allow America to flourish the rest of the year in virtually crime-free bliss was an original concept to be sure. But the unchecked carnage and constant plot twists left viewers unsure of whether they were watching a thriller, a drama, a horror, an action film or some hybrid of them all. But when a movie with a $3 million dollar budget grosses over $64 million at the box office, what the audiences definitely just saw was a hit and a good reason for a sequel.
The sequel is directed by James DeManaco (Assault On Precinct 13) and stars Michael K. Williams, (The Wire) Carmen Ejogo, (Alex Cross) and Frank Grillo (Captain America 2). The annual Purge is about to commence but this time there is some resistance to the idea and its execution. It’s become clear this second go around that many citizens are being sentenced to death for the crime of being poor, so TheUrbaDaily.com caught up with director and cast to get their personal thoughts on the idea of having 12 hours to live–or die.
TUD: What sparked this concept of a crime and consequence free night? Is it the thought that under the right circumstances, killing could be justified?
James DeMonaco: No, I’m a very anti-violence and very anti-gun. I think that’s where it comes from. I’m so anti it that I’m terrified by it so I can’t come up with one. I can’t say that… I think when it comes to our children we all think it’s justifiable. If somebody hurt my daughter I’d probably… I feel like I would kill someone, but I don’t know if I could. And that’s where this character came up. I don’t know if I could. I say that “I’d kill that person if they touched my daughter.” [But] if put to the test I don’t know what the hell I would do. I don’t know if I have that in me. It’s something I’d think about. And I think that’s where the intrigue comes in. How far we would go if there was no jail time? Umm. I know he would kill (Points at Frank).
Frank Grillo: Oh no, I’d kill you (Laughs) That I know. No, I think it’s a good point. I think we’d be lying, all of us here if we said we have not thought about it one time. About revenge or about retribution or about an injustice that we feel has been placed on us. That if I could only just get away with it –and a lot of us maybe wouldn’t follow through with it–but we think about it. I know we do. It’s in our nature. It’s a violent world, I mean watch Discovery Channel, that’s violent! (Laughs) Try to be an antelope living amongst lions. It’s violent!
TUD: When you read the script, what was it about your character that appealed to you?
Carmen Ejogo: It’s nothing like anything I’ve played before, which is what excites me about it about it. And what personally interested me in Ava was the fact that she really represents the working poor in this construct. And that’s the voice that needs to be heard more of. And I think to explore her character in a film that’s going to be seen by a lot of people, again, would hopefully just open eyes to the fact that there a various realities occurring simultaneously depending on how much money you have. And on a night like The Purge is when it becomes most manifest, most obvious as to how much you can protect yourself and how much you are literally hunted in this society if you don’t have money.
Frank Grillo: I think there’s a void in our country of guys in my age range that are blue collar, regular guys that given an extenuating circumstance, it’s interesting to see how they’d respond. Like an every-man. And I think maybe I just kind of somehow hit a chord with the audience that says; “Ok, I believe him. Maybe he’s kind of a Charles Bronson kind of guy,” which I was a fan of when I was a kid. So it’s taken me in this interesting direction in a later part of my career or the middle part of my career. So you know. I stayed fit, I’m in shape and I fight all the time and it seems to be working out. So as long as they keep asking I’ll keep doing it.
Michael K. Williams: Aside from working with this amazing cast, I enjoyed Carmelo’s voice. I love what he stood for. He in my opinion was a mixture of Malcolm X and Huey Newton, Omar and Tupac. That drew me to him. The writing, I felt like he was speaking to me and in my real life you know? What I felt and saw growing up as a child in Brooklyn. I was very proud to play Carmelo.
TUD: Ok, there are a lot of crimes in the world. On a night where they’re all legal, excluding murder for the obvious reasons, which crime would you commit?
Michael K. Williams: Walk into Harry Winston’s (Laughs)
Carmen Ejogo: I know… I was thinking where I would steal from. Barneys man. Give me the key to Barneys! (Laughs) Yeah, there’s gonna be thievery going on in my house!
Frank Grillo: That’s a great question because everybody just thinks murder. Like the Purge is about murder. I would steal my wife a really great pair of diamond earrings.
TUD: Just earrings??
Frank Grillo: Or a ring, you know… whatever I can get my hands on!
TUD: But dude, the whole city is open! There are houses, cars…
Frank Grillo: Yeah, but people lock sh*t up man. Like who leaves the stuff open man? Like I don’t want a ’67 Impala. (James DeMonaco laughs)