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Zoe Soul (left), and Carmen Ejogo in scene from ‘The Purge: Anarchy.’ (AP)
‘Star Wars’ adds ‘24’ actress Christina Chong ‘Purge’ revisits near-future nightmare

LOS ANGELES, July 18, (Agencies): The gulf between rich and poor; America’s culture of violence; freedom pushed to its extreme limits: “The Purge: Anarchy” may be primarily an action movie, but it broaches some highly political themes. The film, a sequel to the 2013 surprise hit original, follows the same concept: set in the near future, in order to keep crime rates down there is an annual “purge” when for 12 hours all crime is legal, and no emergency aid available. The first film focused on an attack on a wealthy family for harboring the target of a murderous syndicate. The sequel follows five characters battling to survive a night together on the streets of Los Angeles.
 
Shot in LA’s business district it is more spectacular than last year’s “The Purge,” and is more of a action thriller than the first one, which was essentially a horror flick. The action of the movie, released Friday in the United States, takes place in 2023, the seventh year of the annual “purge.” “So theoretically it starts in two years. It doesn’t allow you to distance yourself like in a science fiction film that’s farther away in the future,” actor Zach Gilford told AFP.
 
“It makes you think ‘God, what if this would happen here and now?’ added Gilford, who plays a motorist left stranded with his wife in a broken down car at the start of the purge. And Los Angeles in 2023 is strikingly similar to Los Angeles in 2014. There are no futuristic gadgets or technology. “It was a very conscious move by the director,” said Gilford. “It’s not like a fantasy sci fi where everybody wears costumes.” In a modern US world where shootings are becoming tragically routine, the film’s “constitutional right to purge” evokes an extrapolation of the right to bear arms.
 
“I’m hoping to reflect something in American society about how we look at violence. It’s very different than other places in the world,” said director James DeMonaco. Frank Grillo, the main actor, said the “new founding fathers” — who are referred to in the film as a government-like authority — was a play on the founding fathers that is used to justify rights like that to bear arms. “The new founding fathers — it’s a poke to say that the old founding fathers failed us; that the government is not working in taking care of the people,” he told AFP.
 
Grillo plays a former soldier who wants to avenge the death of his son but becomes the protector of his four companions in misfortune. The film also plays on the gap between rich and poor by depicting wealthy families who “buy” people to “purge in the comfort of their own home.” A resistance leader, Carmelo, calls for the have-nots to take up arms to attack the haves, vowing: “Change will come when their blood spills.” Grillo said the moral of the movie is that “we must take care of each other, otherwise there will be a civil war in the world.”
 
Following the box office success of the first film, this one was made with a budget of $12 million, four times that of the original. But it remains modest in Hollywood terms. “Everything went into the movie except maybe 8 dollars that went to us,” joked Grillo, who revealed that the actors will only be paid as a percentage of profits of the film. “The Purge” ended up making some $90 million globally, a huge profit on its tiny budget. Grillo said he hopes there will be at least one more sequel.
 
“There have already been talks about where do we go with the third, and that it would be interesting to concentrate on where the resistance led by Carmelo would go,” he said. In a related story, while the first film was essentially an elaborate home invasion thriller, this follow-up more closely resembles a John Carpenter-style action movie (DeMonaco scripted the “Assault on Precinct 13” remake) with its plethora of well-staged, ultra-violent set pieces. And while character development is clearly not a high priority, the principal figures are a generally engaging and sympathetic lot, with Grillo’s steely Leo particularly intriguing.
 
While the film would have gained resonance if these provocative ideas had been developed more fully, it works well enough on its own terms, with Grillo’s commanding turn anchoring the proceedings. Director DeMonaco fills the screen with arresting images ‚Äî a flame-engulfed bus seen barreling down the street in the background is particularly haunting ‚Äî and keeps the pacing brisk enough to prevent dwelling on the plot contrivances. Effectively adding to the tense atmosphere is Nathan Whitehead’s excellent electronic music score. “The Purge: Anarchy,” a Universal release, is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for “strong disturbing violence, and for language.” Running time: 103 minutes.
 
Also:
LOS ANGELES: Just one week after TheWrap wrote that she had “a very bright future ahead of her” following her casting as the female lead in “Halo: Nightfall,” up-and-coming British actress Christina Chong has joined the cast of “Star Wars: Episode VII,” TheWrap has learned. A representative for Disney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
 
Chong joins fellow “Star Wars” newcomers Oscar Isaac, John Boyega and Adam Driver, among several others. Chong has already wrapped her role, according to insiders, and while her part is small, another female face is always welcome in the “Star Wars” universe. J.J. Abrams is directing “Star Wars: Episode VII,” which hits theaters on Dec. 18, 2015. Chong, who co-starred on “24: Live Another Day,” was recently cast opposite Mike Colter in Sergio Mimica-Gezzan’s live-action digital feature “Halo: Nightfall.”
 
Chong is a rising young star who recently wrapped the feature film “Stuck” with Patrick Stewart and Gary Cole, as well as the TV series “Line of Duty” and “The Wrong Mans.” She previously appeared in Madonna’s “W.E.” and the British shows “Black Mirror,” “Monroe,” “Whitechapel” and “Doctor Who.” Chong is represented by Piers Nimmo Management and Thruline Entertainment, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Her casting was first reported by Latino Review. Chong has mentioned “Star Wars: Episode VII” on her Twitter account once before, though in fairness, who hasn’t?

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